In Brief

CLAIM: Northern Ireland is the happiest region in the UK.

CONCLUSION: The majority of people surveyed by ONS indicated being majority happy with their lives. However, statistically, Northern Ireland has some of the highest rates of mental health illness in the UK and some research has found quality of life to be low here. Most citizens are happy but there exists serious issues which detract from well-being.

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(c) See-Ming LEE used by license CC BY-SA 2.0

Northern Ireland is the happiest region in the UK, according to the results of a ‘happiness survey’ released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in February 2016.

On a scale from 0-10, Northern Ireland rated an average of 7.8 for happiness, whilst the average across the United Kingdom was 7.5. Within Northern Ireland, Mid Antrim topped with an average of 8.21, and Belfast rated with the lowest average of 7.23.

Methodology

ONS asked a four question survey, door to door; 158,000 persons participated. Interviewees were asked to rate these questions, from 0 to 10 (low: 0-4; medium: 5-6; high: 7-8; very high: 9-10):

  • 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 are you?

This research was subjective, as it was up to the participant to self-define ‘satisfied’, ‘worthwhile’, ‘happy’ and ‘anxious’.

Reliability of results

The results indicate that as a population, we perceive ourselves to be happy. However, other surveys have found that there are particular issues in Northern Ireland in regard to quality of life and mental health.

In 2014, a report commissioned by the Northern Ireland executive (page 140) stated that Northern Ireland has a 25 percent higher overall prevalence of mental health problems than England. One in five citizens will have a mental health problem at some stage in their life.

And in 2015, a quality of life survey conducted by uSwitch.com reported that Northern Ireland was among the ten worst areas to live in, in the UK. The survey took into account 26 various factors including cost of living, salaries and crime rates. It also considered lifestyle factors such as hours of sunshine and typical working hours.

So, while we subjectively self-report a general state of happiness, other objective criteria highlight issues that affect our mental health and well-being.