Lead data journalist

British people are twice as likely to choose a low stress, low achievement life over a high stress, high achievement life

With a record medal haul at the Rio Olympics last month, Team GB showed they were at the pinnacle of sporting achievement. The display our athletes put on demonstrates what can be achieved with hard work and perseverance, but stands in stark contrast to the attitudes of the general public who would much prefer to lead a quiet life.

When asked to choose between leading a low stress, low achievement life and a high stress, high achievement life, a new YouGov survey found that 50% of Britons would choose the low stress option, whilst just 25% would endure high stress levels in order to make big achievements. The remainder don't know.

People aged 18-24 are the only demographic group where a majority of people (52%) would prefer to lead a high stress/achievement life. They are also the demographic group most likely to report that their life is very or somewhat stressful, at 72%.

Older age groups significantly prefer to plump for a low stress/achievement life, increasingly so as people get older, and reported stress levels decline with age.

Men and women are about equally likely to want to live a low stress, low achievement life (51% and 48%), although women are seven points more likely to say they lead a stressful life than men at 62%.

Middle class people are about as likely to say they lead a stressful life as working class people (60% vs 57%), but are more likely to want a high stress, high achievement life (29% vs 19%). Middle class people are also much more likely to think they are successful (73% vs 57%).

Across all regions more people would prefer a low stress, low achievement life, but the levels differ most drastically in London and the North. Northerners are the most likely to say they want a low stress, low achievement life (57% against the national rate of 50%). They are also the most likely to think they lead one: they are the region with the fewest people reporting that they lead a stressful live (56%), as well as the region where the fewest people believe they have led a successful life (63%).

Londoners, by contrast, are the most likely to want a high stress/high achievement life (36% - against the national rate of 25%). Again, as with the North, they are the most likely to believe they have led one: Londoners are the most likely to say they have a stressful life (66%) and most likely to think they have led a successful life (70%).

This could be due to the ability of London to suck in young and ambitious people from other areas of the country – the median age of Londoners is lower than the rest of the UK, and the capital dominates many professional industries.

Ultimately, the vast majority of British people just want to lead a happy life. Asked whether they would rather achieve great things or be happy, 87% chose the latter. Just 8% said they would prefer to achieve great things with their life. These figures were practically identical whether a person considered their life so far to have been successful or not.

Photo: istockphoto

See the full results here

After multiple requests, results with more detailed age breakdowns have now been published here

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