When David Cameron decided to survey general wellbeing, he must have been picturing himself in the House of Commons telling us all how we've never been happier, and how we're all facing the spending cuts with a smile on our faces and a spring in our step. Of course, what has actually happened is that we now have an official government measure of the most miserable places in the UK, so we can identify just how unhappy people are, and examine what has made their lives quite so terrible.
When a rating of 10 signifies that someone is completely happy and 0 means they are not happy at all, the average happiness rating in the UK is 7.38, but some areas fall a long way short. We reveal the ten most miserable parts of the UK.
10. Broxborne 7
People in Broxborne are generally satisfied with their lives, and confident that life is worthwhile. They are more anxious than elsewhere, but not strikingly so, and there's not a particular problem with crime or unemployment. However, this has not been enough to rescue them from a pervading misery, which put them tenth on the list. It seems, therefore, that life in a commuter town does not necessarily offer the key to happiness.
The Garden City is meant to be the basis for future housebuilding in this country, so the powers that be won't be desperately impressed at the levels of happiness expressed here. The people of the area, it seems, are convinced that life is worthwhile, it's just that they're not particularly satisfied with their lot in life, and they're fairly anxious. It can't help having all that time to dwell on their success or lack of it on the long commute to and from work.
8. Pendle 6.96
The rocketing levels of anxiety here play a major part in unhappiness, as people are generally satisfied with their life, and feel it's worthwhile. It's hard to know where the anxiety originates, as unemployment is relatively low and is falling, and some of the major employers in the area continue recruiting. The levels of unhappiness, therefore, would seem to indicate that with the ups and downs of the last decade, the people of Pendle are yet to be convinced that the worst is over.
6= Forest Heath 6.87
This leafy and attractive part of the world would seem to have little to worry about, with high employment and low crime rates, yet people find life less worthwhile than elsewhere in the country, and life satisfaction rates are strikingly low. The only explanation is that the researchers arrived on a bad day - because the scores were nowhere near as bad the previous year.
6= Hackney 6.87
This result may be less of a shock for one of the poorest areas in London, which suffers relatively high crime rates and unemployment. It could explain why the anxiety measure is particularly high, and the levels of life satisfaction and measures of whether life is worthwhile come well below average.
5. South Ribble 6.86
The South Ribble economy is recovering, and has seen striking jobs growth. Many of the scores of this close neighbour to Pendle aren't particularly alarming: people don't seem anxious or convinced that life is meaningless. However, overwhelmingly, they're dissatisfied with what they have personally achieved.
3= Torridge 6.84
People in Torridge score particularly poorly on life satisfaction and the feeling that life is worthwhile. This may be partly because this Devon town has also been named as the area with the lowest pay in the country, and has some of the highest prices. House prices are also relatively high, leaving people in the unenviable position of struggling to get by on their income and worrying they'll never be able to afford a home of their own.
3= Maldon 6.84
This part of Essex scored particularly badly for life satisfaction, and anxiety, and has seen a major fall from last year when it was named as the happiest place in the Anglia region. Its position in this table was met with surprise, given that it's a pleasant rural area with improving unemployment and average crime rates for this sort of area. It's hardly surprising that locally the result was greeted with some shock, and those who questioned whether there was any way of pleasing some people.
2. Dartford 6.81
In contrast to some wealthier parts of Kent, people in Dartford score poorly for happiness, dismally for life satisfaction, and show abnormal levels of anxiety. This is another turnaround from last year, when it emerged as the happiest town in Kent. It flew in the face of generally high levels of happiness across the county, and therefore may suffer from harsh comparisons with more booming towns
1. Barrow-in-Furness 6.68
The odd thing about Barrow-in-Furness is that people are generally satisfied with their lives: they are just incredibly anxious about the future. This doesn't seem to add up given that aside from the shipyards, the industry around the town continues to prosper. However, the levels of happiness could be due to the people of Barrow worrying that this industry could go the same way as the shipyards, leaving them workless in a fairly isolated part of the country.
But what do you think? Are these really the unhappiest places in the country? Or are there some far better contenders for the title of the worst place to live in the UK? Let us know in the comments.
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