Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: Which Ulster county is the most miserable in Ireland?

Red Hand county is the saddest, says new census

By Ann W Schmidt

What's the secret of happiness? The answer is elusive if you happen to live in one Northern Ireland county, according to the results of a new census.

The Census of the Heart was created to capture the "emotional state" of Ireland, north and south, and has come up with some surprising results.

Despite being the home to the beautiful Sperrin mountains and the Ulster American Folk Park, the survey claims that people in Tyrone are the least happy on the island.

But be warned, the census comes with a health warning. Out of the 11,708 people who filled out the survey, only about 156 were from Northern Ireland, making up just 1.3% of total participation.

However, one of Tyrone's most famous sons, Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff, laughed off the results. He even went as far as to suggest that poor broadband coverage led to fewer people there filling out the census. "We're not impressed by outside judgements or assessments. We know who we are," he laughed.

"We're spirited people and we're challenging the report."

Aside from asking about happiness, the survey covered topics such as well-being, fulfilment and pride in Irish heritage.

For their connection to national identity, Northern Ireland counties took the top four spots. Londonderry had the highest ranking, but Fermanagh had the lowest overall.

Derry also had the highest ranking for well-being with Fermanagh taking the lowest spot again.

Another question asked whether people felt they were "cherished in Irish society". Historically, "cherish" would have meant inclusion of Catholic and Protestant communities, but the researchers included the question as a way to see if the word was "part of the public repertoire".

That question was split almost evenly in thirds between strongly disagree/disagree, neither, and strongly agree/agree.

The report said the idea of being cherished might be unfamiliar to people from Northern Ireland or the Republic today.

"It appears we have low expectations of being cherished and cared about despite the contemporary resonance of the word," the report said.

The census was created in three sections - the first including questions on demographics, the second on people's emotional state and the third on how people feel about the future.

The questions about demographics expanded beyond a typical census.

More options were available for the question about marital status, including registered and non-registered civil partnerships as well as registered and non-registered same-sex civil partnerships.

There was also a question about sexuality.

The last part of the survey focused on the future and asked participants to explain the current state of Ireland to someone in 2116.

The Census of the Heart was open online this year from April 23 to May 22. It was created by Kathy Scott and Mari Kennedy of Trailblazery.

The data was analysed by Dr Anita McKeown from Smart Labs at University College Dublin, Angela McCourt from Trinity College Dublin, and Morna O'Hanlon.

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