New research from SunLife has found that people living alone are hit the hardest, both financially and emotionally. SunLife’s Cash Happy report (studied the day to day finances of 3,000 UK households, mapping income – and how it is used – against happiness) has found that while there is a strong link between happiness* and how much we earn, there is a stronger link between happiness and how much ‘spare cash’ we have.

SunLife has found that the average UK household has an income of £2,083 a month; and once all the expenses are paid for, that leaves £102 a week on average in spare cash. But, while people living alone earn on average more than half the average household income (£1,242 a month) they have much less left over each week – just £44, which is less than half the average household. It is also significantly less than empty nesters who have £60 each a week and couples who have around £100.

And this lack of spare cash is affecting the happiness of those who live alone; while the average UK happiness score is 6.6 out of 10*, the happiness score of those who live alone is 6% lower at just 6.2 and 13% lower than  empty nesters who score 7.1 on average.

UK average Single/Lives Alone Couples Young Family Older Family Empty Nesters Housemates
Spare cash per month £441 £190 £864 £628 £441 £519 £381
Spare cash per week £102 £44 £199 £145 £102 £120 £88
Happiness index (1-10)  6.6 6.2 6.8 6.9 6.8 7.1 6.5

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. Due to the fact there is no one to split housing costs and bills with, those who live alone have the least spare cash of all the household types, which is affecting their happiness.”

For those living alone 61% of their income goes on housing, finance and bills, with 12% spent on optional spends. This leaves just 27% of their income to spend as they like. For people living with a partner, only 50% goes on housing, bills and finance, 9% on optional spends leaving a considerably larger proportion of their income – 41% – in spare cash to spend as they like.

One way that people try and beat the January blues in by booking a holiday and January 7, dubbed ‘Sunshine Saturday’ saw a massive spike in holiday bookings. And, according to Cash Happy, booking a holiday really will help as people who go on holiday are happier than those who don’t .

The report found that people who don’t go on at least one holiday a year have a happiness score of 5.9 out of 10, people who have had one holiday have an index of 6.6; single people go on fewer holidays – 2.1  a year – compared to the happiest group, empty nesters, who take 2.5.

Atkinson concludes: “Obviously it is tougher, financially, living alone, as the financial responsibility is not shared. However, Cash happy has shown there are things we can do with your money that make you happier. For example, those who budget are 7% happier than those who don’t – only 39% of single people budget compared to the national average of 47% and 54% of couples. We also know that the happiest people in the UK are far more likely to have any savings (89% of them) than the least happy (only 60% of them) and the number of single savers is slightly lower than the UK average 77% compared to 79%, with empty nesters being the most likely savers (89%). So while those living alone may not be able to change their household set up, better budgeting and a more disciplined approach to saving are two ways money can make them happier that they can control.”