Britons are the happiest they’ve been this year as COVID restrictions lift

Eir NolsoeData Journalist
April 21, 2021, 11:11 AM UTC

Britons’ mood is improving with happiness and contentment levels at their highest this year after a big slump during lockdown

It’s been a long few months, but with lockdown gradually ending and the arrival of spring (British weather notwithstanding), the nation’s mood is starting to improve. Data from YouGov’s mood tracker shows that approaching half of Britons (46%) felt happy in the past week. This is the highest figure in 2021, up from a low of 32% on 14 January. A significant shift happened between the end of March and the start of April when people were allowed to meet and play sports outdoors again, with the share of people feeling happy in a week jumping from 39% to 45%.

Despite many people finding this year’s lockdown harder than the first, happiness levels never sank to the same level as at the onset of the pandemic. Only a quarter of Britons (25%) felt happy in the week following 12 March 2020, and during the first lockdown on 2 April, the figure was still below the lowest point this year at 29%.

Britons’ feelings of contentment have largely followed the same pattern as happiness – although usually being lower. Contentment levels are at their highest this year, at 27%. But the range is smaller than for happiness - at the lowest point on 7 January, a fifth (20%) still felt content.

Optimism is rebounding too, with a quarter of Britons (27%) now feeling things are looking up. It reached the same level during the week of 27 February this year - around this time it became clear that the vaccine rollout was going even better than expected. Britons felt the least optimistic at the start of the year on the week following 7 January, when the figure was down to 18%.

Frustration and boredom start to fall as pubs and restaurants reopen

With the uptick in positive emotions, we also see a decline in negative feelings.

A third of people (33%) felt frustrated in the past week, which is the lowest figure since before the pandemic. It’s a considerable fall from 21 January when approaching half of Britons (46%) felt frustrated, the highest on record.

Meanwhile, a quarter of people (25%) felt bored in the past week – down from 40% at the end of January and much of February. There’s still some way to go however, as before the pandemic the average was 19%. 

Sadness is also declining, with a quarter of Britons (24%) feeling sad in the past week – down from a third (32%) on 7 January.

Other negative feelings such as stress and being scared have been less volatile and were not impacted to the same extent in recent months as at the start of the pandemic. Only one in five people (18%) felt scared in the first week of January as another lockdown was announced, compared with 36% - twice as many - during the week of 19 March last year. Fewer people also felt stressed this time around at 41%, compared with half (50%) at the start of the pandemic.