“I am delighted to hear that the people of Northern Ireland are the happiest in the United Kingdom”

Some good news!  [Peter Robinson will be pleased – Ed]  Possibly…  According to the Office of National Statistics’ analysis of experimental subjective well-being data from the Annual Population Survey, April to September 2011, the people of Northern Ireland are the happiest in the United Kingdom. 

In fact the, admittedly subjective, data reveals that the people of Northern Ireland had higher average ratings than the rest of the UK on the ‘life satisfaction’, ‘worthwhile’ and ‘happy yesterday’ questions (7.6, 7.8 and 7.5 out of 10 respectively) (Tables 3.3 and 3.4).

But the DUP’s Nigel Dodds may have regretted bringing up that subject during Prime Minister’s Question Time in the Commons today.  As the BBC reports, David Cameron had a ready riposte

Mr Cameron’s response prompted much laughter in the chamber, but it was hard to ascertain if there were any guffaws from the Northern Ireland contingent.

He said: “Well I am delighted to hear that the people of Northern Ireland are the happiest in the United Kingdom.

“I have to say to that honourable gentleman that their representatives in the house don’t always give that impression.”

ANYhoo… since the NI First Minister did bring up the subject of the economy and, specifically, Gross Value Added (GVA), it’s also worth pointing out that the same ONS analysis notes

When Gross Value Added (GVA) (the value of goods and services produced in an area) per person by country and region of residence is examined, England has the highest levels of GVA per person compared with the other countries of the UK. Within England, London has the highest level of GVA far exceeding other regions (Table 3.2). Of all regions and constituent UK countries Wales has the lowest GVA followed by Northern Ireland and North East England. [added emphasis]

We do, however, have the lowest unemployment rate of the constituent UK countries (7.2%).  But that’s bettered by the South West and South East of England (6.1% and 6.3% respectively) and by the East of England (7.0%).  And the second lowest life expectancy [of the constituent UK countries] for both men and women (77.1 and 81.5 years respectively)…

So, reasons to be cheerful, 1, 2, 3…

Adds Apparently, “the UK’s happiest person is probably a married Northern Irish woman who works part-time, is aged over 65, and has two or more children.” The Guardian’s Patrick Kingsley looks for someone matching the description.

As a Londoner, I am meant to be miserable. London residents scored a lowly 7.2 out of 10 in the government’s first wellbeing survey, making the capital the dourest place in the country. The happiest? Northern Ireland, grinning away with 7.6. The cheery sods.


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