The key to wealth and happiness? Living together

People living alone are less happy than those living with someone else - for sound financial reasons

Living alone makes you unhappy

The key to happiness is apparently having someone to come home to. The average UK happiness score is 6.6 out of 10, but the happiness of those who live alone is just 6.2. This isn't for emotional reasons, or because we want the company: it's all about the money.

See also: Partners are the key to happiness

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Research from SunLife found that while there is a link between income and happiness, there is a stronger link between happiness and how much cash people have left after paying the bills.

The study showed that the average UK household has an income of £2,083 a month, and once all the expenses are paid, there's £102 a week left for the household to spend as they want. People who live alone, meanwhile, have more than half the average household income - at £1,242 a month. However, once they have met their average outgoings, they have just £44 a week to spend as they wish.

This is because there are certain costs associated with running a house that bear little relation to the number of people living in that property. It means that people who live alone spend 61% of their income on housing, finance and bills, 12% on the things they consider important rather than essential and just 27% on the things that make them happy. Those who live in a two-person household, meanwhile, spend 50% on housing, finance and bills, and 9% on optional spending, which leaves them with 41% to spend as they choose.

Unfortunately, the study also found a link between the amount of spare cash people have, and their level of happiness. Ian Atkinson, head of brand at SunLife said: "Obviously there are lots of factors that affect our happiness, but we know that money is an important one, particularly how much 'spare cash' we have rather than how much we earn."

What can you do?

The good news is that the study also found that there are number of other financial issues linked to happiness levels that we are in more control of. The first is budgeting, because those who budget are 7% happier than those who don't.

It means that by simply drawing up a spreadsheet of income and outgoings, and balancing both sides of the equation, you can get on top of your finances, and add happiness to your life. It doesn't sound like the kind of activity that would cheer anyone up, so probably has more to do with the fact that once you have done this you are more in control of your finances and more able to free up cash for the things that make you happy.

Your level of savings also makes a difference. SunLife found that 89% of happy people have savings, compared to 60% of less happy people. Presumably this at least partly to do with the fact that they have the security of a financial safety net, so they don't have to live in fear of a nasty surprise catching them off guard.

The other option, of course, is to switch from living in a single-person household to living with someone else. It's one of the reason why plenty of people in their 20s move in with friends, to spread the costs. The question is whether this is practical for older people, or whether at a certain age, moving in with someone else and living with their foibles is definitely going to make you less happy - regardless of how much spare cash it leaves you with.

What do you think? Would you move in with someone to cut costs? Let us know in the comments.

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