Who is the happiest of the them all?

Mirror, mirror, on the wall….
Who is the happiest of them all?

Turns out the answer is clergy.

According to the BBC, the government is beginning to include measures of happiness in what it attempts to do and part of that has been trying to quantify who the happiest people are in society. Turns out the answer at the top of the list is “vicars/priests”.

I’m not at all surprised. Oh, but there’s so much to say about it – not least the fact that I know plenty of clergy who are very far from happy. My hunch is that those who are unhappy in this job tend not to be unhappy about the essence of the job and are frustrated because they can’t vicar enough to fulfil the hopes that they once had. (My apologies for verbing the noun in that last sentence).

The list itself is fascinating as it lists job categories by average income too. Second most happy people are CEOs bringing in lots of dosh.

Here’e the top ten happy categories:

(Rank) Occupation Mean income (£s)
(1) Clergy 20,568
(2) Chief executives and senior officials 117,700
(3) Managers and proprietors in agriculture and horticulture 31,721
(4) Company secretaries 18,176
(5) Quality assurance and regulatory professionals 42,898
(6) Health care practice managers 31,267
(7) Medical practitioners 70,648
(8) Farmers 24,520
(9) Hotel and accommodation managers and proprietors 32,470
(10) Skilled metal, electrical and electronic trades supervisors 35,316

I’ve been asking myself why it is that clergy come out at the top. Some combination of the following factors is probably at work:

  • Very high degree of autonomy – notwithstanding bishops, presbyteries and other forms of oversight, clergy have to be very self-motivated.
  • We are in the joy business.
  • There’s a relatively high level of vocational testing before you get in – the churches try to select those who are most likely to cope with a very odd life.
  • High satisfaction levels around being with people in trauma and emotional need – you know you are doing good very often
  • High level of variety in daily life.
  • It is a life not a job.
  • Inner calling is a greater motivator than money – you don’t go into it for more money.
  • Lots of opportunity to develop a life where internal reflection allows you to work through your own stuff.
  • The job involves telling people they are loved and learning how much you yourself are loved too.
  • You get to walk into places and situations where others are frightened and help them deal with their fears.
  • Worship.

I’ll write sometime about why clergy are not happy. But for today, I’d be interested in any further comments about why clergy are happy.



  1. Suz Cate says

    I spend a lot of time thanking God (we do get asked to pray aloud quite frequently) and asking for the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is always joyful when She shows up: sometimes giddy, sometimes serene in the face of great adversity, sometimes a quiet effervescence, but always joyful. And then there are the shiny black shoes.

  2. The mean annual average pay for full-time workers, according to the ONS, is around £26,500.

    The mean and median of the incomes in the full table are both £137,500.

    The satisfaction in the full table has a variance of merely 4%.

    It is very open to debate, with appropriate weightings for the number of people in each job category, whether the variance or deductions are significant.

    Seems I’m the 147th least-happy… :/

  3. Roderick Mackin says

    Experiment demand effect. Both CEO’s and clergy realize the power of positive thinking. As General Colin Powell once said, “Optimism is a force multiplier.” Thus to be who they are, living into their vocation, happiness is obligatory,satisfaction is non-negotiable.

    Are you happy? ” I’m clergy/CEO aren’t I.”

    CEO’s inevitably claim that the dosh is only a way of keeping score and is in itself irrelevant – a side effect of the game, useful only for ranking ones self with peers.

    Clergy automatically self-exempt from consumerist status anxiety. And inhabit the A 1:2 demographic cohort in a shabby chic cocoon, cloistered from the stresses of economic competition and in many cases stringent performance parameters. If they are fortunate enough to enjoy private means, good optics dictate that they practice stealth wealth or quiet philanthropy. Cognitive dissonance is minimal. Unlike tenured faculty, there is no pressure to publish. And they do not require the competitive drive common to many politicians. Immersion in the milieu of faith/belief/ritual means that the cynicism frequently acquired by journalists is rarer in vicars. Plus they are excused the angst that some barristers endure, especially when clients are sent down despite an able defense. Collectively, clergy are regarded with the sort of benign approval that makes them ideal as sit/com protagonists. This engaging goofiness makes them more likable than solicitors, estate agents, detectives, doctors, civil servants, advertising types, salesman and spies. How could Rev’s possibly be unhappy………or own up to unhappiness when everyone else has so much misery on their plates.

  4. As a matter of interest: where did teachers come in? I was a really happy secondary school teacher – was I mad? (That last is a rhetorical question)

  5. The whole list is here:
    I’m not seeing teachers.

  6. Well Kelvin you beat me to the blog draw on this subject , my loss for writing articles once a week! But the survey does raise the issue whether my recent blogs on the pain and pressure of parish ministry at http://www.stmungos.org/?page_id=6243 is entirely off the mark . But I think the paradox is that despite the news headlines to the contrary, the survey is about job satisfaction NOT actual happiness. I think our calling , role and ministry allows us to be have times of real deep job satisfaction and purpose but doesn’t protect us from the pain and stress and unhappiness that mistreated by parishioners , lay leaders or the institution can put us under and stop us from doing the role properly that gives us such satisfaction! I feel a blog of my own on the subject coming on !

  7. Thanks, Kelvin.

    I’ve reblogged it here: http://liturgy.co.nz/happy-in-your-work



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