BBC Gives False Impression ‘Affluent West’ is Unhappy

British news network emphasizes midlife ‘dip,’ even though Westerners are world’s happiest people.

It’s no surprise that people living in the economically prosperous West told Gallup they were relatively happy. Conversely, those living in the former Soviet Union and sub-Saharan Africa reported being much less happy.

But that was not the first impression BBC gave when it reported Gallup’s findings. The BBC’s Nov. 5, 2014, headline proclaimed, “Happiness ‘dips in midlife in the affluent West.’” Michelle Roberts, Health editor for BBC News online, began the story saying, “Happiness nose dives as you hit middle age - but only if you live in the affluent West, according to experts.”

While it’s certainly true that Westerners reported a dip in happiness during midlife, Roberts never explicitly stated Gallup’s findings that Westerners were actually happier than anyone else in the world. Readers could only have discover this by comparing several charts in the article that summarized the data. Those charts contradicted the message of the headline, which made it sound like the affluent West was less happy than others around the world.

Roberts buried the fact that people in wealthier countries tend to be happier in the final sentences of the story when she quoted Professor Andrew Steptoe.

Steptoe of University College London said, "It would appear that well being goes along with economic prosperity in the world.”

Instead, she spent most of the article supplying multiple explanations of why “life satisfaction followed a U-shape, dipping to a low in midlife.”

Based on the charts, people from Latin America and the Caribbean polled relatively close to Westerners early in life, especially during the middle years, but a wide gap developed as individuals aged. Western residents reported increasing rates of happiness later in life while Latin American and Caribbean residents said they became decreasingly happy throughout life.

Average happiness levels among people living in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were far below reported happiness of those in the Western world.