By Nadeem Badshah
BRITISH INDIANS, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are among the happiest people in the country, an official study has showed.
South Asians scored higher than the average score of 7.54 out of 10 when they were asked how happy they felt. People of Indian origin scored 7.67, Bangladeshis 7.64 and those of Pakistani heritage had a total of 7.57.
Despite the political turmoil since the Brexit vote and the mixed weather, every ethnic group had a higher average life satisfaction score in 2018 compared with 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.
About 38.81 per cent of people from the Other Asian ethnic group and 38.69 per cent of Indians reported very high levels of happiness in 2018, the highest percentages out of all ethnic groups.
But for feelings of worth, the average scores for British Bangladeshis (7.71) and people from a Pakistani background (7.81) was lower than the UK average of 7.88. And 20 per cent of individuals of Pakistani origin reported high levels of anxiety compared to 17.06 among Bangladeshis and 17.73 in the Indian community.
With winter looming, experts have highlighted the importance of having a healthy diet, vitamin D supplements and doing regular exercise to prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), known as the winter blues.
Dinesh Bhugra, professor of mental health and diversity at King’s College London, said previous studies had shown that levels of depression were low in the Indian community, but high among Bangladeshis in the UK.
He told Eastern Eye: “This may reflect levels of poverty, poor accommodation and overcrowding.
“More work is needed urgently to assess levels of resilience in various communities, which will also depend upon other factors which influence resilience.
“Social networks and spiritual aspects need to be ascertained to make sense of their experiences. Previous studies have also indicated that Indian children tend to do better compared to children from other communities, thus indicating a complex picture.”
He added: “Winter months can cause additional pressure due to lack of sunlight which in itself may lead to vitamin D deficiency.
“During the short dark days, it is important to take measures to prevent SAD. [Things like] appropriate lighting can help, physical exercise, social interactions and activities are helpful too.”
Bahee van de Bor, a specialist paediatric dietitian, has recommended a number of mood-boosting foods for the winter months including oats, beans, lentils, tofu, soybeans, pistachios, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds.
She also stressed the importance of having protein in every meal as meat, chicken, fish and eggs help produce the happy hormone called serotonin which also has a role in regulating sleep.
Van de Bor, who runs website www.ukkidsnutrition.com, told Eastern Eye: “It’s essential to keep on top of your vitamin D levels by taking a daily supplement providing 7-10ug per day.
“Research suggests that women with type two diabetes, in particular, may experience improved mood and levels of anxiety post vitamin D supplementation, though further clinical studies are required for larger doses.
“There are some thoughts that cocoa polyphenols in dark chocolate can help with mood; therefore try choosing dark chocolate over regular types when you fancy a bit of sweetness.
“Some studies claim that eating flavonoids found in blueberries, tea and onions may also help improve mood. However, it’s more important to focus on eating a good variety of fruit and vegetables. Continue to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day and consider trying new spices and flavours to make vegetables exciting. This way your family’s diet will be enriched with the relevant antioxidants.”
The ONS data comes after figures showed the proportion of students reporting mental health issues has doubled in the past five years. Last year, 3.5 per cent of undergraduates in England told their university they suffered from mental health conditions, up from 1.4 per cent in 2012-2013.
Female students are more than twice as likely to say they have illnesses such as depression or anxiety than their male peers, an Office for Students analysis showed.
Dr Kailash Chand, a GP, said: “Happiness means different thing to different people. I strongly believe you will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world – someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.
“Generally, the happiest people are the ones who have people that they can turn to in times of need.
“Music can alleviate anxiety and anger, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It also improves wellbeing in older people.
“As a doctor I have known many Bangladeshi patients. I was always impressed with their spirit, honesty and enthusiasm for life. It is intoxicating.
‘Seek help for winter blues’
SAD, a type of depression known as the winter blues, comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. The symptoms are usually more apparent and severe during the winter.
They can include a persistent low mood, loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, feeling irritable, guilty and worthlessness. If someone is lacking in energy during the day, sleeping for longer than normal, finding it hard to get up in the morning or gaining weight, they can be suffering with SAD.
The NHS recommends seeing your GP if you think you might have SAD or if you are struggling to cope.