Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland boasts four of the five happiest places in the UK

By Amanda Ferguson

People living in Northern Ireland are the happiest in the UK - and that is official.

Unless you are from Cookstown, where the folk are said to be anxious.

This is according to a wellbeing report from the Office for National Statistics, which found that four of the five happiest places across the UK are in cheerful Northern Ireland.

They are Antrim, Dungannon, Fermanagh and Omagh, where residents smile alongside Babergh in Suffolk.

Antrim and Omagh made the top five least anxious areas, but there was a gloomier outlook among the people of Cookstown, which was listed among the top five most anxious places in the country alongside four London districts.

Cookstown council chairman Wilbert Buchanan and businessman Jim Eastwood – a former contestant on The Apprentice –told the Belfast Telegraph the people of the Co Tyrone town were not an anxious bunch.

Jim added: "I find the statistics hard to believe because I have lived all my life in Cookstown and I find the people very happy and pleasant.

"We are happy people – happy to live in Cookstown. It's strange how Dungannon, which is 10 miles down the road, is on the other end of the scale."

Mr Buchanan described the survey as "completely wrong".

"In the experience I have of the people of Cookstown, they are very content and very happy," he added.

"There is a good sense of community spirit and the housing stock is in relatively good shape. It is a positive place."

Report co-author Dawn Snape said people in Northern Ireland were a mystery, having scored highly in all aspects of the wellbeing index despite having a high unemployment rate.

"Aren't they great?" she added. "They're a real conundrum for us.

"Unemployment is high, yet they really buck the trend. At the moment, we don't know the answer to this.

"It may be down to social connectivity, a great sense of community, or maybe it is down to how life is going there now, compared with 15 years ago. It is not clear to us yet – we need to do more research."

The twice-yearly survey of wellbeing showed life satisfaction and happiness indicators were up on last year's figures.

Anxiety has also fallen, according to the survey of 165,000 people in the UK.

The ONS said people in Northern Ireland gave the highest rating for wellbeing, while Londoners reported lower than average for wellbeing.

The statistics also showed a slight increase in trust in the Government.

The report, Measuring National Wellbeing, read: "The year-on-year differences are small but statistically significant in each case.

"These latest estimates suggest improvements in the past year in the average ratings of personal wellbeing in the UK across all of the measures."

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the research, first published in 2012, after deciding that the Government needed to be informed not only on the UK's economic progress but also on the public's general quality of life.

Factfile

How they measured happiness:

The four questions asked by researchers in the survey of 165,000 people:

  • Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
  • Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
  • Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
  • Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

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