SCOTLAND deserves a rousing round of applause after a new report revealed it to be one of the happiest parts of Britain.
Smiles are warmer and the glow of contentment appears to be just that little bit brighter than in the rest of the UK as Scots are found to have some of the highest levels of wellbeing, according to research by the New Economic Foundation.
The Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland top the league of areas with the highest levels of overall wellbeing, yet academics are unable to pin-point exactly why the average Scot appears to be so chirpy.
The study builds on research carried out by the Office for National Statistics earlier this year in which they interviewed 160,000 people across Britain.
At the time, Scotland was found to have a slightly higher level of wellbeing than south of the Border, with 77.4 per cent of those interviewed reporting a medium-to-high life satisfaction compared with 75.7 per cent in England.
It was also found that six of the top ten local areas with high wellbeing were in Scotland.
The further study by NEF of the raw data gathered by the ONS supports the idea of a “Scotland effect”.
When factors such as local affluence are taken into account, residents still appear to benefit from the positive Scotland
effect, which academics think may be linked to a strong sense of community or proximity to areas of natural beauty.
Another possible explanation may be that many people in Scotland are employed by the state. Researchers found that public sector workers had a greater sense of wellbeing and more satisfying lives than those employed by the private sector, with those working in local government having a greater sense of wellbeing than those employed by central government.
It was also found that individuals who work part-time by choice are happier than those who work full-time.
Yesterday, Saamah Abdallah, senior researcher at the New Economics Foundation, said: “Our research suggests the positive effects of living in Scotland can’t be explained by economic factors alone. The question this data poses for researchers is, what is causing the Scotland effect? The question for policy-makers is, what can the rest of the UK learn from it?”
However, not everywhere in Scotland is quite so chirpy. The NEF also found that in Edinburgh and Clackmannanshire, only 23 per cent and 22 per cent of residents had high wellbeing scores compared with 41 per cent of those living in Orkney or Shetland. By analysing the responses from each of the individuals who spoke to the ONS, the NEF was also able to pinpoint the areas in Britain with the highest inequality between those who are happy and those who are unhappy. North Lanarkshire was the second worse place in Britain for inequality between the happiest and unhappiest, just behind Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, while North Ayrshire and Glasgow also appeared in the bottom ten.
Dan Roberts, a cognitive therapist who specialises in happiness and wellbeing, said yesterday the environment in which people lived was too often over-looked as a factor.
“If you happen to live in an ugly, inhospitable, unpleasant place, that will have a impact on your mood in the same way that if you are lucky enough to live in a rugged place of natural beauty, as there are in Scotland, then you may well feel better.”