Victor wont believe it how young Meldrews are now

Britain's 'grumpy old sods' have got younger, according to a poll of social attitudes which nails the middle-aged as the nation's new champion grumps and complainers.

Years of relentless grind in the country with Europe's longest working hours has soured the 35-54-year-olds into 'premature pensioners', claims the MORI Social Research Institute, which labels them as 'consistently cross and fed up'.

Christening them the 'Meldrews', after Victor in the television series One Foot in the Grave,

MORI says that the middle-aged have learned to grumble early partly because their seniors are enjoying a relatively good life. Over-55s are generally looking forward to decent pensions, while the middle-aged fear that theirs will be worth less than they had been led to believe.

Rising house prices are also seen as ruling out hopes of a comfortable retirement move, while the media's traditional portrayal of the world as completely disastrous is now accessible and round the clock.

'The 35s-54s are of prime working age in the most over-worked nation in Europe, bearing the brunt of commuting on ever more congested roads or using public transport that is still a byword for failure', says the report. 'There is rising dissatisfaction, made worse by the feeling that things used to be more challenging and interesting when they were younger.'

Some of those in the category are already adopting Meldrew as their icon, including the Rev Chris Morris of Rawdon, Leeds, whose parish magazine describes his 'holiday in hell among fractious, nasty and downright vulgar' younger revellers at Disneyland Paris. 'As I walked round in my Victor Meldrew T-shirt, featuring a mugshot of Victor with the caption Miserable Sod, I was astounded at the rudeness of the crowds.'

The survey finds the Meldrews are undeferential and unwilling to trust 'those in charge'.

The institute's director, Ben Page, said: 'What's interesting about this group is that they seemed to be more rebellious when they were growing up. They witnessed social change in the 1970s and 80s. They are the age group who were most likely to see strikes and demonstrations as signs of a healthy social system. They're not staid, they're just disillusioned about a lot of things.'

The survey's data may be weakened, however, by another characteristic of Meldrews - a dislike of being asked questions by nosey, and probably younger, opinion pollsters. This may account for such bleak responses from former youthful radicals as 95% believing that the NHS will not improve and 90% saying the same about education (compared with 72% of under-34s and 71% of over-55s on both subjects).

Martin Wainwright, 2002, One Foot in the Grave_

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