Britons not high on the happy scale, survey says

It might be their reserved nature, but British respondents to a poll on happiness released Friday revealed themselves to be less cheery than their North American counterparts.

The survey on happiness, conducted by pollsters Gallup in early December, asked around 1,000 people in the United States, Canada and Britain to gauge their happiness from "very happy" to "not too happy."

While 53 percent of respondents in the United States and 50 percent in Canada said they were very happy, Britons reacted more coolly. Only 38 percent of British adults aged 18 or over questioned in the telephone poll said they were very happy. The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percent, Gallup said.

Britons have long been stereotyped as having "a stiff upper lip" and not being particularly demonstrative but the figures bear this out, said David A. Holmes, expert in psychology at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

"We (the British) very reluctantly say we are very happy. It's almost an admission of guilt if you are too happy in Britain," he said. "We are brought up with the ethic that the child who has a beaming smile has done something wrong."

Holmes added that in Britain there is a culture of whining that prevents many people from being completely happy. "We complain about everything, it could be the weather, the traffic, anything."

Cheer appeared to be scarce on the streets of London on Friday. Problems ranged from the pace of life and jammed subway trains to the lack of strong family networks.

"I think living in a big city with bad weather and congestion makes people unhappy," said 25-year-old legal assistant Shorai Shoniwa. "My parents live in the countryside and they are much happier than I am."

Retiree Sylvia Millgate, 68, from south London said she was happy but worried about the younger generations.

"It's a much more complicated life now. What we need is a simple life. Kids can't make their own happiness anymore like I could."

A few Londoners were convinced however, that having a little bit of what you like would quickly lift the spirits.

"As long as I can drink a beer, I'm happy. That's why everyone should take a drink," said Martin Robinson, 31, reports AP.

O.Ch.