Wellbeing in Northern Ireland, 2020/21

Date published: 27 October 2021

The Executive Office today published figures for Northern Ireland for 2020/21 across four areas of wellbeing:

Statistical news release - OFMDFM
  • Loneliness – measures the frequency with which people report feeling lonely.
  • Self-Efficacy – a person’s belief about their capabilities to exercise influence over events that affect their lives
  • Personal Wellbeing –  measures how satisfied people are with their lives, their levels of happiness and anxiety, and whether or not they think the things they do are worthwhile
  • Locus of Control (LoC) – the degree to which a person feels in control of their life. Individuals with an internal LoC believe in their own influence and control while those with an external LoC believe control over their lives is determined by outside factors

For the following key findings, scales for self-efficacy and locus of control range from 5 to 25. Scales for personal wellbeing measures range from 0 to 10. A higher score signifies better wellbeing in the self-efficacy, life satisfaction, worthwhile, happiness and locus of control metrics, whereas a lower score signifies better wellbeing in the anxiety metric.

Key Findings

  • Self-efficacy and locus of control scores have increased in Northern Ireland (NI) since 2014/15. The mean self-efficacy score for people in NI has increased significantly from 19.2 in 2014/15 to 19.8 in 2020/21. At 17.4, people reported a significantly higher (more internal) locus of control than in all previous years.
  • Life satisfaction, happiness, anxiety and loneliness measures have shown a significant decline in wellbeing over the past year. Life satisfaction (7.6) and happiness (7.5) scores were significantly lower in 2020/21 compared with 2019/20 (7.8 and 7.6 respectively). In the same period, levels of anxiety increased significantly (3.0 to 3.2) and a significantly higher proportion of respondents reported feeling lonely “at least some of the time” (19.8% compared with 17.4%).
  • Females reported significantly worse levels of wellbeing across a range of measures – reporting significantly lower self-efficacy (19.4), life satisfaction (7.6) and locus of control (17.2) scores compared with males (20.2, 7.7 and 17.6 respectively) and significantly higher levels of anxiety (3.5) compared with males (2.8). Females were also significantly more likely to feel lonely (22.8% compared with 16.2% of males).
  • More than one quarter (26.8%) reported feeling lonely “at least some of the time”. This was significantly higher than those aged 25-34 (17.3%), 35-44 (17.7%), 45-54 (18.3%) and 65-74 (14.3%)
  • Married people/people in civil partnerships reported higher levels of life satisfaction (7.9), worthwhile (8.2) and happiness (7.8) than people who are single (7.4, 7.6 and 7.3 respectively) or divorced (6.9, 7.5 and 7.0 respectively)
  • People in paid employment reported significantly better wellbeing across all metrics. They reported significantly higher self-efficacy (20.3), life satisfaction (7.8), worthwhile (8.1), happiness (7.6) and locus of control (17.7) than those not in paid employment (19.1, 7.4, 7.8, 7.4 and 16.9 respectively). They also reported significantly lower levels of anxiety (3.0 compared with 3.3) and feelings of loneliness (14.5% compared with 27.9%)
  • People living in urban areas had lower levels of personal wellbeing than rural areas – those  living in urban areas reported significantly lower levels of life satisfaction (7.5), worthwhile (7.9) and happiness (7.4) than those living in rural areas (7.8, 8.1 and 7.7 respectively), along with significantly higher levels of anxiety (3.3 compared with 2.9). However, they also reported significantly higher levels of self-efficacy (19.9) than people living in rural areas (19.6)


The report is available on the Executive Office’s website at: www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/publications/wellbeing-NI-202021

Notes to editors: 

  1. Further information relating to the collection and production of the statistics can be obtained by contacting:

    PfG Analytics
    The Executive Office
    Castle Buildings
    Stormont Estate
    BT4 3SR

    Telephone: 028 9052 2402
    E-mail: pfganalytics@executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk

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