Northern Ireland

ONS well-being report finds NI happiest part of UK

Northern Ireland people are the happiest in the UK, the first national well-being survey has found.

Respondents in Northern Ireland to an Office for National Statistics survey had higher life satisfaction, had more of a sense their lives were worthwhile and were less anxious than the UK average.

The survey is an effort to produce an alternative measure of national performance to Gross Domestic Product.

Prime Minister David Cameron has described it as crucial to finding out what the government can do to "really improve lives" - but Labour ridiculed the survey as a "statement of the bleeding obvious".

In the survey of 165,000 people between April 2011 and March 2012, people were asked to rate themselves on a scale of zero to 10 on four questions:

  • On the question, "overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?" Northern Ireland residents had the highest average rating of 7.54 while the UK average was 7.41.
  • When asked, "do you feel the things you do in life are worthwhile?" the UK average was 7.66 but Northern Ireland was joint highest at 7.77 with the south west of England.
  • Northern Ireland people also responded with the highest rating to the question of "overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?", with an average of 7.40 compared to the UK's 7.28.
  • While the response to the question, "how anxious did you feel yesterday?" was lower than the 3.14 UK average at 3.12 in Northern Ireland, the south west of England was least nervous with a 2.99 average.

As a general trend, people were the most satisfied with life in their teenage years and when they reached retirement age, with happiness levels dipping during middle age.

Those aged 16 to 19 and 65 to 79 reported satisfaction levels considerably higher than the UK average of 7.4 out of 10.

People living in built-up or former industrial areas, such as South Wales, the West Midlands or London, tended to be less happy, while rural areas, such as Orkney and Shetland, and Rutland, in the East Midlands, were the happiest.

The results for Northern Ireland were not broken down by council area.

When broken down by marital status, married people were the most satisfied with their lives, followed by cohabitees, then single people, widows/widowers and people who were divorced.

Being healthy was also important an factor but does not guarantee happiness, the survey suggests, with 18% of those who reported good or very good health reporting low satisfaction with life overall, while 38% of those with bad health reported high or medium levels of satisfaction with life.

Some 45% of unemployed people rated their "life satisfaction" as below 7 out of 10. Among employed people the figure was 20%.

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