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59 per cent of UK citizens are unhappy about the society they live in, claims a recent study

25th February 2013

People living in the UK want a more compassionate society with more effective leaders, claims a recent study by Barrett Values Centre (BVC) in consultation with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and charity Action for Happiness.

The study measures the level of dysfunction people feel exists in the UK – which it labels “cultural entropy“, with over half of people (59 per cent) feeling anxious and unhappy about the culture that exists in Britain today. The UK has one of the highest levels of cultural entropy recorded in nine European countries studied by BVC .

Comparison of Cultural Entropy in European Nations

International Comparison of Cultural Entropy

Source: UK National Values Survey, BVC

Phil Clothier, CEO of BVC, explains exactly what cultural entropy is and how it is measured: “Cultural entropy is an indirect measure of the level of anxiety or fear that people have about being able to meet their needs in the cultural context in which they live. It is measured by determining the amount of potentially limiting values that are experienced by a group of people. When people are asked to pick 10 values that represent their perception of the culture they are living in, the proportion of potentially limiting values they pick represents the level of cultural entropy they are experiencing. Consequently, cultural entropy is a direct measure of the level of anxiety/fear/unhappiness they are feeling about being able to satisfy their needs.”

The report highlights how there is a gap between what people value and what they see around them. Those interviewed describe their own personal values as including caring, family, honesty, humour and fun, friendship, fairness and compassion, as well as independence, respect and trust.

However, when asked about the values they see operating in their nation as a whole, the main values UK people see are bureaucracy, crime and violence, uncertainty about the future, corruption, blame, wasted resources, media influence, conflict/aggression, drugs/alcohol abuse and apathy.

Richard Barrett, BVC founder and chairman and author of Love, Fear and the Destiny of Nations: The Impact of the Evolution of Consciousness on World Affairs (2011), says: “After freedom and equality, accountability is the next most important value to put in place in order to build a well-functioning democracy. This study clearly shows that the people of the UK believe this value, along with the value of honesty, is lacking among our decision makers.

“There is a strong perception among the general public of bureaucracy, corruption, blame and wasted resources. We will only correct this situation if the leaders of our nation take up the challenge of building a values-driven society and creating a more effective civil service.

“Our leaders need to show us the way. They need to become role models of values-driven leadership and they need to show us that they exercise care and compassion for the needs of the elderly and disadvantaged.”


The UK National Values Survey was carried out in October 2012. BVC questioned 4,000 people living in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Participants were asked to select, from a list of 86 words and phrases, ten values/behaviours that most reflect who they are, not who they desire to become.

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