The further you get from Belfast the happier you are says fresh government report
Rural-dwellers are on balance happier than their urban counterparts in Northern Ireland – despite being more deprived in certain respects.
That is one of the stand-out findings of a fresh annual analysis from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, published yesterday.
It draws together statistics from a range of sources in a bid to uncover gaps between the cities and the countryside when it comes to businesses, incomes, poverty, and more
Government stats officials define “rural” areas as being regions of open countryside or where settlements have fewer than 5,000 people.
One of the key findings was the difference in levels of happiness and levels of anxiety.
The happiness information stems from a 2018/19 survey done by the Office for National Statistics.
It asked: “Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?”
• In urban regions, 35% of respondents said their happiness level had been high.
For those in rural areas less than one hour from Belfast, 40% said their happiness was high.
And for people living in rural areas more than one hour away from the NI capital, 47% said their happiness was high.
This was not a one off; other figures in the report show the same pattern.
• For instance, a similar survey had asked how anxious people felt they were.
In urban regions, 38% said their anxiety level was low.
For those in rural areas less than one hour from Belfast, 44% said their anxiety was low. And for people living in rural areas more than one hour away from the NI capital, 47% said their anxiety was low.
• This was also borne out by the rate at which people were on medication for mood or anxiety disorders.
In rural areas, the rate was 177 people per 1,000.
In urban areas, the number was 228 per 1,000.
But the report also shows the extent to which rural areas lag behind the cities in some regards.
• When it comes to the proportion of households who could not get a “decent” broadband signal, in urban areas the most recent figure was a mere 1%. But for rural areas it was 19%.
• It also showed what appears to be a tremendous gap when it comes to businesses.
In all, 58% of NI’s businesses are located in rural areas – yet rural firms account for just 25% of all business turnover.
• And whilst people in the countryside were more likely to have a job (75% of the working age population, compared with 67% in urban areas), the median annual salary for a rural worker was £20,466, compared to £22,630 in urban zones.
• Another arresting statistic was the proportion of pensioners defined as living in poverty – 12% in rural areas, but only 7% in urban ones.
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