Belfast Telegraph

The Young: Forget about money and fame, we all just want to be happy

Day five of our fascinating look into the hearts and minds of our young people shines spotlight on their hopes and dreams for future

By Rebecca Black

Money can't buy you happiness. That is the conclusion of young people across Northern Ireland.

Despite facing an uncertain future with rising student fees, youth unemployment and out-of-reach house prices, our youngsters are surprisingly non-materialistic.

More young people aged between 16 and 24 in Northern Ireland chose happiness as the thing that was most important to them in their lives, a poll has indicated.

Out of choices which included jobs, community harmony, health and wealth, more respondents picked happiness than any other category.

These humble ambitions were revealed in a series of surveys carried out exclusively for the Belfast Telegraph by LucidTalk.

The findings are perhaps not surprising when placed in context of several high-profile young people who have proven that money and success do not guarantee happiness, such as US pop star Miley Cyrus, who has spoken openly about her battle with depression.

This week she revealed that despite fame and fortune from a young age as a Disney star, she was depressed.

"I went through a time where I was depressed," admitted the star who was attacked over her performance at the recent MTV Awards.

"Like, I locked myself in my room and my dad had to break my door down."

A simple Google search on the term happiness reveals scores of results on how to become happy, suggesting the youth of Northern Ireland are no different to millions of people across the globe.


Earlier this month the Wellbeing and Policy Report, commissioned by the Legatum Institute, found that happiness was more important nationally than GDP. Closer to home in 2007, University of Ulster ecomonist Professor Vani Borooah found that people in Northern Ireland believe money cannot buy you happiness.

In research that took in more than 3,000 interviews from the Poverty and Social Exclusion in Northern Ireland survey, Professor Borooah found that the most important sources of happiness were good health and freedom from financial worries.

The results of the LucidTalk poll published in today's Belfast Telegraph appear to back this up.


More than half of the 550 young people picked happiness as being most important to them.

They were asked to rate what was important to them using 1-5, with 1 being most important, and 5 being least important.

The most popular choice for the most important category was happiness with 51.5% picking that, closely followed by a job (49.8%).

However, when combining 1 and 2 picks for both categories, a job turned out to be most important.

With 1/2 selections combined, 78.2% felt a job was important and 72.2% felt happiness was either very important or important.

After these top two, health was the most important concern.

Some 38.4% said they felt health was very important to them.

The fourth most popular choice was wealth, with 34.2% saying it was most important to them.

The least picked option was community harmony, with just 24.4% of respondents saying that was most important to them.

And these priorities were the same among young people across the political divide and area they were from.

LucidTalk said there was "no particular patterns in terms of this question regarding demographic analyses, eg Protestant vs Catholic, area etc".

A week of surprise revelations about Northern Ireland's new generation


Most of our young people want to leave Northern Ireland, are alarmed by the level of drug use they see around them and don’t rate our politicians.

These are some of the shock findings from a survey of 16-24-year-olds exclusively carried out for the Belfast Telegraph by polling company LucidTalk.

On Monday we kicked off our five-day coverage of the poll results with what young people thought about the state of Northern Ireland.

Startlingly, only 32.5% of respondents saw their futures in Northern Ireland, just 28% thought there was peace, and barely 30% felt that our politicians were capable of agreeing a joint future vision of Northern Ireland.

In terms of young Catholics and Protestants mixing, just 32.2% said they would meet someone from the other tradition very frequently.

On Tuesday we revealed that binge drinking and drug abuse were huge worries for young people.

These dangers were starkly illustrated earlier this year when the DJ Hardwell concert at the Odyssey Arena caused a major incident as scores of drunken and drug-fuelled young people caused chaos.

Almost 83% of the 550 respondents to the LucidTalk poll said drink and drug abuse was an issue of importance or huge importance to them.

Surprisingly, there was no strong desire to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. Some 65.8% felt the voting age should not be lowered, 28.4% said it should, while 5.8% had no opinion.

Correspondingly, 62.9% thought it was either important or very important to vote in the Stormont elections.

On Wednesday we revealed the sobering fact that young Protestants were significantly more disillusioned with Northern Ireland than young Catholics.

Some 65.5% of young Protestants said they felt that things in Northern Ireland had either not improved or got worse, compared with just 28.3% of young Catholics.

This divergence of opinion between the youth of our two communities also extended to how politicians were viewed.

Young Catholics had a higher opinion of politicians, with 52% rating them as either excellent or very good.

Whereas just 39% of young Protestants felt the same way about our politicians.

And marginally more young Catholics than young Protestants thought that community relations had improved.

The focus turned to education in yesterday’s paper.

Some 80.7% of respondents said they saw non-segregated education as either important or very important to the future of Northern Ireland.

And around two-thirds said they were happy with the education they were receiving or had received in terms of the training and qualifications they have gained.

Only around 50% of young people said they thought all schools should offer the opportunity to play rugby, soccer or GAA, leaving the choice up to students.

Views of our young editors


“It’s great to see happiness as most important, particularly over wealth. When trying to choose a career, a lot will focus on salary.

"I believe you should pick a career you’ll enjoy. As long as I’m happy I don’t care how much I’m earning. There’s a real lack of support for musicians and poets — there could be someone really talented feeling compelled to go into a well-paid job instead of doing what they love.”


“I’m pleased young people prioritise happiness over wealth as it is something everyone should aspire to. Although I am surprised at how low community harmony is rated.

"Perhaps health is so far down because most young people wouldn't really be worried about their health yet — bar extreme conditions. However, I think older adults would prioritise wealth, jobs and health.”

Today's Belfast Telegraph is brought to you by our Young Editors 


We’re in reasonably contented place... despite Troubles


Happiness generally tends to depend on levels of life satisfaction, according to an academic.

Retired University of Ulster economist Professor Vani Borooah has carried out research into happiness.

He explained that when economists talk about happiness, they tend to measure money and health.

“If you are young you don’t think so much about health, but about money. Whereas as you grow older you feel money is not as important, but health is.

“It’s not just having money in an absolute sense, but having money relative to other people. So if you have money, but your neighbour has a better car, you don’t feel so happy. It’s more relative income than absolute income.”

Professor Borooah said he felt happiness levels had remained fairly consistent over the last three decades.

“If you look over the last 30 years and the proportion of people who say they are very happy or moderately happy, this hasn’t increased very much, even though as a society we have become much more prosperous and have a greater variety of consumption goods,” he said.

“I suspect then that happiness relies on factors that are not associated with standards of living. Even though the standard of living has gone up, the proportion of people who say they are very happy has not gone up.”

The academic said happiness levels were highest in Denmark.

But Northern Ireland doesn’t do too badly, with comparative standards to the rest of the UK despite our troubled past.

“Northern Ireland doesn’t do badly, it’s very comparable to what’s happening in Britain,” he said.

“It’s a moderately happy Western country. People think it must be unhappy because of the Troubles, but actually it’s not bad. People are reasonably satisfied/happy.”

Further reading

The Young: We want to learn together - 82% back joint schooling in Northern Ireland

Minister vows to create 10,000 new apprenticeships by 2020

A better life - most Catholics think that Northern Ireland has improved

Our politicians - thumbs down from the majority of Protestants

Reaching out - 63% believe that community barriers coming down

Revealed - The true depth of Protestant disillusionment

Politicians' surprise at findings on voting age

Message to politicians is loud and clear - time to listen to our voices

  Elections ... we want to vote but 16 is too young

Stormont vote... 41% want to make their mark

Emigration... it's a case of the further away the better for some

Peace, what peace? 65% believe that conflict really hasn't ended

The path to peace is pot-holed by our deepening brain drain

Politics - a massive vote of no confidence for the folks on the hill

Two thirds of our young people want to build their future outside Northern Ireland

Generation Y: who are they and what do they want for their future?

Religion - do the findings reflect that we are finally leaving the old of the divisions of the past behind?

Here are our young editors...and their views on our poll 

Belfast Telegraph


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