People who live in small towns and rural areas are happier than everyone else, researchers say
by Christopher Ingraham May 17
Commuters wait for train service to be restored at Grand Central Terminal on Tuesday in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
“Heaven is wide open spaces — at least, it is for most people, according to a massive new data set of happiness in Canada.
A team of happiness researchers at the Vancouver School of Economics and McGill University recently published a working paper on the geography of well-being in Canada. They compiled 400,000 responses to a pair of national Canadian surveys, allowing them to parse out distinctions in well-being at the level of more than 1,200 communities representing the country’s entire geography.
They were able to cross-reference the well-being responses with other survey data, as well as figures from the Canadian census, to see what sorts of characteristics were associated with happiness at the community level: Are happier communities richer, for instance? Are the people there more educated? Do they spend more time in church?
Their chief finding is a striking association between population density — the concentration of people in a given area — and happiness. When the researchers ranked all 1,215 communities by average happiness, they found that average population density in the 20 percent most miserable communities was more than eight times greater than in the happiest 20 percent of communities.
“Life is significantly less happy in urban areas,” the paper concluded.”
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