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

  • Comment number 176.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Cricket whites, bowls club, hanging baskets, pond, village pubs, pretty houses, local shop, trees and fields, friendliness, a cheery good morning.

    Graffiti, dirt, litter, traffic fumes, crime, ghettos, beggars, noise, gangsta culture.

    Really no idea why I prefer my village when London has so much to offer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    What makes me unhappy is the way there's rip-offs everywhere. From bogus passport sites, to ever rising parking fees, because governments refuse to raise income taxes, and change the laws to block tax avoidance and evasion. To get something done you have to have the money to buy the influence. 95% of us don't have the money

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    The British are doing what we've done in the U.S.- destroying their communities. You guys better stop building shopping centers out on the outskirts of your towns. It makes the property developers and mega stores wealthy but everyone else pays the price. Decayed city centers, high crime, etc, etc. Visit nearly any town or city in the States and you will see boarded up stores and dead areas.

  • Comment number 172.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Thatcherism and it's legacy chased down the vote of the 'Essex man', sold them a story and told them what would make them happy. Now they sit in their urban sprawl semi-detached castle (which they own - or may do just before they die), one car on the drive another on the clogged road outside, bathed in the irradiating glow of a £1k TV trying to ignore the only mail that comes through their door.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    Biggest reason for most modern day unhappiness in our cities is dis-integration of white areas being taken over by foreign cultures
    If that were true, the happiest people in the UK would live in remote islands off the Scottish coast. The fact that the population in these places is plummeting due to people leaving suggests otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    Some people prefer cities, others more rural areas - we are all different. Personally I thought London a great place to live in my 20s, but would hate to live there now and certainly wouldn't want to bring my kids up there.

    I'm certainly not surprised that the most depressing places in the country are in Essex - it's both expensive and horrible (other than a few notable exceptions)!

  • Comment number 168.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Oh no. This is the worst news I could hear. Now the government will build vast new estates on the fringes of our happy little town to relocate the masses to make them happy too.

    Then we will be miserable and the relocated masses will wonder what we saw in our little town that made us (once) happy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    I was born close to the centre of Leeds, my home for my first 58 yrs. Every move took me further out & now I live in a small market town nr York. Should have moved here years ago, love it. There is lots to do, people are friendly, we have most facilities in walking distance. Surrounding countryside is beautiful. English is the language & culture, good manners the norm & we know our neighbours

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    I like spending time in market towns...about two days. And then I want to get back to London, and one reason is because of the diversity. Even so, I'm now of the view that we have far too many people whose cultures are so opposed to the majority of our diverse citizens that we are storing up trouble. There is no room for intolerant fundamental religious beliefs and social practices.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    It looks as if unhappiness starts in the cities. As the population moves radially outwards, they bring unhappiness with them. And unfortunately, it stays.

  • Comment number 163.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Blimey has he been to woolwhich market yet Obviously not Where do these people get these fantastic reports from Do you make them up as you go along or something Does the BBC do any investigative reporting at all or is it that the BBC have taken a degree in deceit
    I’m just wondering,most of your reports you seem to be nothing but a pack of liars


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