The Ice Cream Index of Happiness

It turns out it really is the simple things in life that do the most to uplift you’re feelings, at least if you’re British and it’s summer time. Chocolate and donating to charity give British people the most happiness per £1 during the summer months. Buying a bar of chocolate makes us happiest relative to price, according to research whilst giving money to charity came in a close second.

The unique research asked Britons to consider 100 summertime spends and give them a happiness rating out of 1,000. Items ranged from the simple – a humble ice cream, to the extravagant – a £1,000 weekend in New York.

The scores were then weighted alongside the cost of the items to reveal summer’s top list of feel good purchases in the ‘Ice Cream Index’. The score was also influenced by how long it took people to decide; hovering over an item for a longer time led to a lower score.

The results show that it’s the little things in life that give us the biggest feel good factor, with items such as ‘a book’, ‘a home-cooked family meal’ and ‘cocktails at happy hour’ scoring higher than ‘a high-tech drone’ and ‘a holiday in New York’.

Clare Gambardella, Chief Customer Officer at Zopa, said: “This just goes to show you don’t need lots of money to feel good this summer – it’s how you spend it that matters. Zopa offers customers the chance to feel good about their financial lives and so we commissioned the Ice Cream Index to discover which items really make people happy when the sun shines, whatever their budget. It links two subjects at the heart of Zopa – money and happiness!

“In fact, as the research shows, social connection is one of the top things that cheer us up during the hotter months. Whether it’s going to the pub with a friend (number 26 on the list) or giving to charity (number 2), connection outweighs material things”.


Experiences rather than products give people more happiness for the same amount of money, with holidays beating expensive tech items.

People also report higher happiness levels from items they use on a regular basis than from something they only use once, or less frequently but which costs the same. For example, a Netflix subscription makes us happier than a one-off rejuvenation treatment, and we prefer an unlimited phone contract to a music festival.

This is consistent with ‘reinforcement theory with longer-lasting items providing more reinforcement opportunities, or events that associate that item with positive emotional reactions. So people learn to expect happiness when they think of these items.

Furthermore, items directly associated with physical pleasure give more happiness than items that aren’t – for example, we favour a comfy sofa or relaxing Jacuzzi over a designer watch or high-tech drone. This is because of the availability ‘bias’ or where we have a mental shortcut to something because we’ve already experienced it.

The research by Zopa, published as The Ice Cream Index is based on groundbreaking methodology that explored which of our summertime spends delivers the most happiness per pound.

It’s clear that food treats dominate the top 20 list but if you want to take them out of the equation then you can see some of the other things that make us happy.


What is it that makes you happy?  I’m not sure what makes me happy changes by the season.  Normally a bit of sunshine but not necessarily heat.  Peace and quiet and the outdoors or seeing a dear friend.  A good film or book too is always up there.  My happy foods also stay the same whatever the season.  Nothing better than ice-cream if it is snowy weather or a nice roasted dinner, visit to the chip shop or home made pepperoni pizza even in a heatwave!

Looking at my list it seems to be the inexpensive or free treats that make me happy too!

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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9 Responses to The Ice Cream Index of Happiness

  1. Vegan ice-cream …. as ridiculous as tofu chicken !! I though real ice-cream might have appeared on the Ice-cream index.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree and a Box if Oreos at number 3. I’ve never seen them and only know 2 or 3 who have ever had one and nine liked them. Out if all the British and Euro chocolates…. Oreos really? Like swapping real cheese for the Kraft rubber slices!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes I noticed the Oreos – they are big in the developing world and where expats hang out.. I don’t mind them actually but No3 — I don’t think so … the British have become very weird of late.. must be Brexit – or perhaps it is why Brexit happened. Funny you should mention cheese as on this evenings news I learned that the government is talking about banning Roquefort cheese here in Australia for health reasons…. isn’t it great wonderful that is currently Australia’s biggest problem? Obviously it’s best we consume Kraft rubber slices too.

        Liked by 1 person

        • In the U.K. ‘no-one’ has Oreos, they aren’t really considered real chocolates lol. Nice to see Australia really has its head screwed on too. The London mayor has just announced spending a fortune to put mobile phone coverage underground. The one respite from banal conversations we have. There are so many more urgent improvements that could be done. The weather is set to be 36C/98F on Thursday on the street. 200 feet down with hundreds of thousand of squashed passengers it’s likely to be above 130f and no aircon. I’m pretty sure out of all the grumbles I’ll hear, a lack of phone calls won’t be one of them!

          Liked by 1 person

          • No Oreos are not chocolates they are a rather bitter dark chocolate biscuit with an indescribable white cream in the middle. 36C that’s hot for London the tube will be a nightmare as you say. We had a week of around 45C here in Canberra last summer though my cut-off point for comfort is actually 36C. Good old Boris…….. I won’t start … luckily it’s my bed time here so I will bid you good-night 🙂


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