Bustling market towns hold the secret of happiness

Enniskillen Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh: A happy place to live

Britain's bustling market towns are hailed as the places containing the secrets of happiness.

New government research on life satisfaction concludes that cities and smaller towns should try to replicate the community spirit, thriving high streets and social networks of large rural and market towns.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics reveals that the least happy areas in the UK are Harlow and Brentwood - both in Essex. The happiest are Fermanagh and Moyle, both in Northern Ireland.

But why should that be? Identifying the factors that are linked to high levels of life satisfaction is one of the aims of the government's well-being programme. The idea is that ministers can then tailor policies to fit.

What today's government analysis reveals is that happier places tend to have lower levels of ill-health, crime and unemployment. So far, so unsurprising.

They also have higher levels of retired people and young couples without children. Among other factors linked positively to life satisfaction are "working from home", a rural community and volunteering.

Among the negative factors are "women working full time", lone parent households and higher numbers of newly settled migrants.

The data only identifies correlation rather than cause, so it may be that the correlation with the number of migrants, for example, may reflect an area's relative deprivation.

Happiest (and least happy) places in UK

  • MOST HAPPY: Fermanagh, Moyle, Hart, Lisburn & Limavady
  • LEAST HAPPY: Harlow, Brentwood, Liverpool, Hyndburn and Islington
  • MOST ANXIOUS: Horsham, Eden, Belfast, South Derbyshire and Islington
  • LEAST ANXIOUS: Fermanagh, Antrim, Wolverhampton, Dungannon & Eastleigh

The places with highest levels of life satisfaction tend to be larger than a small town but smaller than a city.

The happiest places of all, it turns out, are larger rural or market towns.

The government analysis suggests some of the benefits of market town living be "designed into" other communities.

Among the official advice to ministers is the delivery of public services in ways which meet people's needs for social contact - fewer call centres, more real people, perhaps - creating thriving high streets and promoting volunteering.

Above all, it seems, the secret of market towns' high well-being levels is their sense of distinct identity, community spirit and perfect size - small enough for people to feel included but large enough to remain private.

Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    @179 I find graffiti very depressing and leads me to believe the afflicted area is threatening and has no social morality. I wouldn't surprise me if graffiti led to crime and disorder - it has such an abandon all hope impact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    last night on the BBC propaganda machine - Japan is doomed because it is a monoculture. UK of course is not - just look at successful example in UK - Birmingham, Luton, Leicester and Bradford. No crime ever occurs there and these are by far the nicest places to live in Britain. Hence Japan is doomed with its lack of diversity and vibrancy

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    @175 "Graffiti, dirt, litter, traffic fumes, crime, ghettos, beggars, noise, gangsta culture"

    I agree totally, but why put Graffiti first on the list? Or am I missing something, and the downfall of society really does all start with graffiti?

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    My wife and I moved from Croydon to Rusthall, just outside Tunbridge Wells, in 1991. While we found Rusthall to be very quiet, somewhat quaint, and relaxing, we also found out very quickly that everyone, and I mean everyone, knew everyone else's business.
    Yes, village life might be quiet and relaxed, but it's home to the curtain twitcher and pearl clutching brigade. You have been warned!

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    It remains a tricky balance while successive Governments play social engineering games.
    What are the impacts of new estates on Market Towns? Not enough parking, changes in the High Street as more people drag in more national chain shops. People without roots in the area not investing in their new home... not mixing ..social disconnect...anti social behaviour .. London


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