Manchester’s anxious, Salford’s unhappy and Rochdale’s unsatisfied with life: Stats say you’ve got to get out to the country to be happy

By James Metcalf

Life satisfaction and feeling worthwhile is lower in Greater Manchester than anywhere else in the North West, new figures reveal.

Salford is the ‘unhappiest’ place to live in Greater Manchester while you’re less likely to have anxiety if you live in Wigan than most places in the UK, according to statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Meanwhile anxiety in Manchester’s city centre is higher than anywhere else in the region.

Happiness and well-being appears to go hand in hand with living in the countryside, with rural areas of Cumbria and Cheshire scoring much higher than cities.

Yet if city living is for you, then Greater Manchester isn’t the worst option – faring much better in life satisfaction ratings than its other big city counterparts in London, the midlands and the North East.

Professor Susan Skevington, from the University of Manchester’s School of Psychological Sciences, told MM: “Whether rural locations make people feel better or happier people just chose to live there, is a classic ‘chicken or egg’ problem and the answer is not known.” 

On average, the people of Greater Manchester gave a rating of just 7.32 out of 10 for their life satisfaction.

Meanwhile, the average life satisfaction in Cheshire and Cumbria is noticeably higher, at of 7.47 and 7.64 respectively.

Manchester also shares the bottom spot in feeling worthwhile, with the lowest rating of 7.60 out of 10 along with Lancashire, beating Merseyside, Cheshire, and Cumbria.

Professor Skevington said: “Wellbeing in the North West is not as good as the South West but better than the North East. However it has not changed significantly in the last year.

 “Better levels of personal wellbeing are typically reported by people living in more rural areas of Cheshire and Cumbria. Here there is greater life satisfaction and stronger feelings that life is worthwhile than in more urban areas.

 “The patterns of poor mental health revealed by the findings for Lancashire and Merseyside, flag up the urgent need for resources to be dedicated to boosting psychological services with employment opportunities.”

Greater Manchester did, however, fare somewhat better in levels of happiness and anxiety.

At 7.01 out of 10, Merseyside has the lowest happiness rating in the North West, while Cheshire has the highest at 7.34. Sitting comfortably at 7.18, Greater Manchester is nevertheless the county with the second lowest happiness rating in the region, coming behind Cumbria at 7.28 and Lancashire at 7.20.

Merseyside also comes lowest in levels of anxiety, topping the region with a rating of 3.31 out of 10. Surprisingly Cumbria has the second highest anxiety level at 3.17, with Greater Manchester happily coming third out of five with a rating of 3.09. The people of Greater Manchester worry only slightly more than Lancashire (at 3.04) and Cheshire (at 3.03), and a lot less than London (at 3.27).

“From time to time, the World Bank publishes international data which shows that, contrary to popular belief, having lots of money is not necessarily linked to greater life satisfaction,” Professor Skevington told MM.

“More money generally improves life satisfaction for poorer people but beyond a certain point, the more income you have, does not necessarily improve your wellbeing.

“This pattern was recently reflected in the ONS annual statistics for 2012/2013. When comparing the four countries of UK they show that although English people earn more money per head than the other three countries (£21,349 annually as measured by Gross Value Added), the English are among those who report the poorest personal wellbeing.”

The people of Greater Manchester are also more satisfied than those in London, who gave a rating of 7.26 out of ten, and only slightly behind Tyne and Wear and the West Midlands, both of which averaged at 7.33.

With a higher score in feeling worthwhile than Tyne and Wear (7.54), London (7.56), and the West Midlands (7.58), Greater Manchester’s population is also comparatively happier than those in other large metropolitan areas.

In Greater Manchester itself, the highest ratings of life satisfaction, feeling worthwhile, and happiness all reside with Stockport’s population, with ratings of 7.60, 7.83, and 7.44 respectively. The area with the lowest level of anxiety, however, is Wigan, with an unbeatable 2.76 out of 10.

The leader of Wigan Council, Lord Peter Smith, said: “It’s great to see that so many people in the borough are happy. Call me biased, but I think our sporting triumphs over the last year have got a lot to do with it. 

“Residents have come together to support their local teams and have watched them succeed, making them proud to call Wigan Borough their home. Our teams sporting success has encouraged people to get and about and active and its common knowledge that physical activity can increase happiness levels – so perhaps that has something to do with it too!”

Conversely Rochdale has the lowest rating of life satisfaction, at 7.15, Salford fares worst for happiness with a rating of 6.98, and, at 7.42 out of 10 in the worthwhile figures and 3.24 out of 10 in those covering anxiety, the population of Manchester has suffered most in both of these areas.

Councillor Sue Derbyshire, leader of Stockport Council, said: “Stockport is a fantastic place to live, work and visit. It came as no surprise to me whatsoever to see that Stockport had been rated as the second happiest place in Britain to live.

“Residents’ wellbeing and happiness is a key Council priority and it is very encouraging to see Stockport feature so highly in this survey. The rating is based on how people feel about where they live which looks at how residents feel about their home and the community they live in. Stockport has a very strong sense of community.

“Stockport has a thriving business community, excellent transport links, offers high quality education, has an historic market, and can boast some of the best tourist attractions in the region including Bramall Hall and the Air Raid Shelters. All of this will have greatly contributed to making Stockport such a happy place to live.”

Picture courtesy of Alex E Proimos, with thanks.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles