The poll coincides with a report on human happiness issued by Cafod, Tearfund and the thinktank Theos

More than half of Britons believe helping others in Britain and abroad is important to achieving happiness, according to a new poll.

The poll, which was carried out by Catholic aid agency Cafod, Christian aid charity Tearfund and theology thinktank Theos, asked more than 2,000 British adults to identify what made them happy. Three-quarters of the respondents said helping people in Britain was the key to happiness, while 54 per cent believed helping people abroad was essential for happiness.

The top priority for most respondents (97 per cent) was spending time with friends and family, while having an interesting job was important for 92 per cent. Only 64 per cent of people felt that a high income was a priority.

The poll coincided with the launch of Wholly Living, a report by Cafod, Tearfund and Theos. The report examines human wellbeing in the context of both Britain and international development.

The poll also sought to identify people’s attitudes towards poverty and the environment. It found that nearly 90 per cent of people agreed that living in a world where the environment was protected and where poverty did not exist was important.

Matthew Frost, chief executive of Tearfund, said: “It’s interesting that in this time of economic uncertainty, when we might have expected people to prioritise income over all else, we have instead found that people look outwards to the state of the environment, world poverty and personal relationships with others as their measures of happiness.”

Cafod director Chris Bain urged the British government to reflect the findings of the poll in its decisions to shape a new market system, placing “people and our environment right at its heart”.

He said: “The present economic downturn has been catastrophic for many of the poorest across the world and in Britain. We must not make the same mistakes again – just patching-up the tears in this self-centred market system could lead to wider devastation and bigger financial losses when the next crash comes.”

The report Wholly Living calls for a high-profile “prime ministerial commission” to look at wellbeing, and for accountability and transparency in British businesses. It urges Britain to lead the way in radically cutting carbon emissions and to help achieve greater equity at a global level.

Paul Wooley, director of Theos, pointed out that “while the theory of human flourishing outlined in Wholly Living draws on a Christian understanding of humanity, the resulting recommendations are profoundly relevant for all people”.