Where are the UK's happiest people, and what are they spending their money on?

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It may feel like life is getting gloomier by the day, but a new study has revealed that we're actually slightly wealthier, and marginally happier than we were this time last year.

The study, by SunLife, concluded that the key to happiness is to have spare cash left over at the end of every week - after you have paid for the essentials. They then looked at how much spare cash people had.

They discovered that the average person has £44 spare cash a week (and the average household has £102). That's up £8.63 a week from last year.

Not everyone

Unfortunately, this hasn't been universally good news for everyone. Couples had the most spare cash, while those living alone had the least. This is simply because there's nobody to split fixed household costs with - like the mortgage and standing charges.

And while young people aged 18-24 have seen their weekly spare cash double (to £49), those aged 45-54 have seen a much smaller rise of 14% to £40.73 - which means they are the age group with the least spare cash. The richest age group was those aged 25-34, who have spare cash of £50.47 a week.

Men, meanwhile, have much more spare cash than women - at £55 compared to £37; and people in East Anglia have the least spare cash (£31.70) while those in Scotland have the most (£52.20).

The areas with the most spare cash were Scotland, followed by the North West and North East, East Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside. At the other end of the spectrum, those with the least were East Anglia, followed by Northern Ireland, Wales, the South West and the West Midlands.

Make yourself happier

The study concluded there were two ways to make yourself happier. One was to be marginally better off. To be among the happiest 10% of households in the UK you don't need to win millions. The study found we would need £158 in spare cash each week - which works out at £69 per person. On average, therefore, we only need to find an extra £3.50 each a day in order to be in the top 10% of happiest people.

Alternatively, you can spend the money you have more wisely. The researchers asked people what they would do with extra spare cash, and the top five answers were to save it, buy clothes, have more days out, go to the cinema and eat out.

They also looked at the spending that made us happiest, and while eating out came in at number four, and days out at number five, the top three were spending on sports, going to the theatre, and (at number one) going bowling.

It seems, therefore, that the answer to happiness lies in putting in half an hour of paid overtime every day, taking a weekly bowling trip, and moving to Scotland.

But what do you think? Would it work for you? Let us know in the comments.

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