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The Great City Living Survey 2015

What we learned from 10,000 Londoners telling us about their lives

Written by
Guy Parsons

We asked 10,000 Londoners to tell us about their lives – everything from work and relationships to pet peeves and hygeine habits. Here's the unvarnished truth about how we're all really getting along...

1) We're a bit tired.

[Photo: Duncan Dargie]

People's quality of sleep was by far the single biggest influence on how happy they were. People who said they usually slept well were 19.2% happier than people who didn't.

But a whopping 61% of Londoners said they have trouble sleeping. Work worries were the most commonly cited reason for a sleepless night.

On average, we get seven hours (and 43 seconds!) of sleep each night. 

The richest Londoners manage to get by on just six hours.

But it's the people racking up nine-and-a-half hours a night who are the happiest!

2) And we're totally wired.

[Photo: Max Gor]

With that much sleep-deprivation, it's no surprise we're all after some coffee! We asked what you found it hard to get through the day without, and you said...

Checking your emails 39%
Coffee 36%
Facebook 27%
A cuddle 23%
Tea 22%
Make up 19%
Chocolate 13%
Cigarettes 9%
Alcohol 7%
Twitter 6%

Feeling dependent on any of these was correlated with stress, except tea drinkers, who are actually a bit happier than average. We'll put the kettle on, then! 

3) We always feel broke.

[Photo: Laura McGregor]

The average salary was £29,500. We also asked you how much you thought you'd need to earn to live 'comfortably.' The average answer to that question was £38,500 - that's 30% more!

But it gets worse. The more Londoners earn, the higher they think the 'comfortable' salary is. In fact, it's only people who earn £70,000 or more who usually think they earn more than a comfortable amount.

The silver lining? Because we all feel chronically broke no matter how much we earn, increases in income have a very minor impact on people's happiness. There are much easier ways to reduce your stress levels and boost your mood.

4) But what makes us happy might surprise you.

[Photo: Doug's Lumix]

We asked everyone how happy and how stressed they'd been feeling recently. Then we looked at some of their other answers to see if there was any connection. Besides a good night's sleep, some of the attributes most likely to boost wellbeing were...

Having a short commute +8.3%
Exercising in past week +7.8%
Cycling instead of taking tube +6.9%
Having sex in past week +6.5%
Being in a relationship +5.0%
Not relying on coffee +4.7%
Calling family in past week +3.7%

Some things that didn't really make a difference were drinking alcohol, drug use, having children or working from home. The last one's surprising considering longer journeys to work were correlated with increased stress, but we guess it gets a little bit lonely.

5) It must have been 'something we ate'.

[Photo: Richard Perry]

6.2% of respondents had pulled a sickie in the last seven days alone. That implies the average Londoner helps themselves to 3.2 'magic holiday' days each year. But generally speaking, we're much more likely to be nice than naughty. Here's what you all got up to in the last week:

61% called mum or dad
57% did some exercise
34% had some sex
33% drunk to the point of getting hungover
31% had a bit of a cry
20% watched porn
8% tried to chat someone up
7% used recreational drugs

6) Sometimes our city drives us bananas.

[Photo: James Beard]

We asked you for your pet peeves and you didn't hold back. Some choice suggestions included..

'CYCLISTS on the canal TOWPATH who think they're BRADLEY WIGGINS.'
'Other PEOPLE being everywhere all the time, NOISILY. Especially neighbours walking around their flat for the entire night. DON'T THESE FOOLS EVER STOP MOVING?'
'London DATING! Too many RULES. Not ENOUGH decent GUYS!'

Here are some of the words you mentioned most...

Asked to pick from a selection of potential urban annoyances, London's hard-working but seemingly everpresent 'street fundraisers' raised the most hackles... and we found motorists more objectionable than cyclists. So there.

7) But we're sticking with it anyway!

[Photo: Linda Wisdom]

Despite an outbreak of handwringing in the press, 68% of you still see yourselves in London five years from now.

And 35% of Londoners think it's improving, versus just 22% who believe the city is in decline. 

The small print: 13,641 Londoners participated in the survey, of which 10,982 answered every question. Participants were visitors to during July 2015 and are not necessarily representative of the city population as a whole. Averages, where provided, are median figures, representing the 'middle' Londoner.

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