The Office for National Statistics actually measures our happiness
, which is nice of them. And guess what, London’s least happy borough – Islington – scores just as poorly as St Albans. Both of them are cheerier than the Home Counties’ historic commuter towns, Canterbury and Runnymede. Inner London, as a whole, is 18th from bottom in the list of regions.
At the other end of the scale, Omagh (my ancestral home) tops the list, just above many other lovely places in Northern Ireland. The South East (my actual homeland) fares pretty well too. So it’s in the soil of my upbringing to be happy. Just ask anyone who knows me how happy I am. They’ll say, “Dunno. You ask him.” And when you ask me, I’ll tell you to piss off.
The findings, unsurprisingly, don’t tally with the property-porn, click-bait industries’ ideas of where to live happy family lives. Let’s take one example of mainstream ideas about where to raise children, here.
The criteria they used to decide where to live are vague, it’s the Telegraph-reader’s equivalent of an interesting conversation you might have after some drinks – like those conversations about fantasy football teams, fantasy festival headliners or 80s MILFs. But instead of interesting subject matter, some tedious turd decided to list which are the ’20 best places to raise a child’.
The best place to have children, they declared, was Cheltenham, because lots of rich people live there. However, the people of Cheltenham appear to be among the most miserable 20% in the UK. Most of the top 20 places a Telegraph reader should move their clan are firmly in the middle-range. A few places do well in both- the Cotswolds, Edinburgh and Chichester. Now, I grew up in Worthing, near Chichester, and I can tell you that Chichester is a shit place for a child. It’s full of Telegraph-reading fuckwits. I did jury duty there, and didn’t find much to be happy about, there are nonces in the surrounding fields, you know. We need some better information about where to raise a child in order to increase their chances of happiness.
The facts. Or das facts, if you’re German.
There is abundant evidence that densely populated, urban areas have more people suffering poor mental health. Over-crowding is directly associated with this – so if cities were less crowded, we’d have fewer people suffering psychosis or depression. Not only that, we’d have fewer people suffering the deadly effects of air pollution. However, untangling this connection from other factors (such as wealth, attainment, language, provision of services, class) is difficult and something research hasn’t managed yet.
There are real concerns that ‘social overload’ can take place in crowded homes in urban areas, and children can lack access to play. And that’s part of why we did this blog – to show ways to play and suggest how to mitigate against such things.
Yet Inner London is not the most miserable place to be, which you could expect if over-crowding is the primary cause of misery. Dover and Liverpool did terribly in the happiness survey. They were both sites of bitter industrial disputes, when they had their docking and seafaring industries decimated by Conservatives. So it’s reasonable to assume that declining local economies make people less happy, while having a few quid, relatively, will improve your happiness. The South East has loads of rich people, and did very well, and Northern Ireland is better off than the rest of Ireland, which is perhaps why they feel more content with their lot.
And anyway, Bangladesh, India and Palestine all have happier populations than the UK. So if you think moving to Bromley will make you happy, bear in mind that the people of Gaza, who live without gardens somehow, are probably cheerier than your neighbours – so chill out.
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Outside space in the city
Playing in the flat