They are among Scotland’s most remote outposts, suffering brutal winter weather which often sees them cut off from the mainland.
But now analysis of happiness levels over the past seven years show that island areas of the country experience “consistently high” ratings for life satisfaction.
The Scottish council areas of Orkney Islands, the Western Isles and Shetland Islands have - alongside Fermanagh and Omagh in Northern Ireland - consistently reported high ratings for all the four measures of personal well-being since the year ending March 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics’ ‘Personal well-being in the UK’ report.
UK-wide, there was little change in personal well-being measures in the UK in the year to March, apart from a slight improvement in average happiness ratings which increased from 7.52 to 7.56.
While island areas of the country are among the happiest in the UK, Scotland as a whole, however, saw one of the lowest increases in life satisfaction, at just a 2.1 per cent increase over the past year. Meanwhile, life satisfaction for the year to March was marginally lower than that of Northern Ireland and England for the same period.
Midlothian at 6.9 per cent recorded the greatest average increase in life satisfaction in Scotland, the study found, followed by East Ayrshire at 6.6 per cent – each approximately three times the average increase for Scotland.
The report said: “Between the years ending March 2018 and March 2019, there was very little change in the ratings of personal well-being measures. The only slight improvement was in the average rating of happiness, which increased slightly across the UK from 7.52 to 7.56, measured on a scale from 0 to 10.
“For the other measures of personal well-being – life satisfaction, feeling that the things done in life are worthwhile, and anxiety – average scores remained level with no significant changes over this period.”
UK-wide, satisfaction ratings improved by 3.6 per cent in England, 3.2 per cent in Wales and 2.5 per cent in Northern Ireland.
The study found that at the local authority level, areas making the biggest improvements in life satisfaction were those that typically reported some of the lowest well-being.
In Scotland, North Ayrshire had the only significant improvement in average anxiety levels, with anxiety improving by 17.2 per cent, over five times the Scottish average of 3.4 per cent.
Orkney Islands Council convener, Harvey Johnston, said: “Orkney boasts not only a landscape of great beauty, but also a strong and traditional sense of community with an ambitious, resourceful, can-do attitude. It’s a potent combination which yields a rich array of opportunities for local people to take part in and contribute to their community - and makes it a very special place to live in or to visit.”
A spokesman for Western Isles council said: “Given the high quality of life in these islands, including a low crime rate and a unique environment, culture and heritage it is not surprising that residents of the Western Isles are some of the happiest people in the UK.”
Shetland Council refused to comment.