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Happiness is… being a retired Scottish lawyer

PUBLISHED: 10:48 01 August 2012

The results are in, and it appears that the happiest people in Britain live in remote areas of Scotland, work as doctors or lawyers and are married women over the age of 65 who own their own homes.

From this list, I tick only two boxes: I am a lawyer who lives on a Scottish island (or a woman who owns their own home – you decide). Worse still, living in Norfolk means that we are in the second least happy section of Britain, beaten only by misery holes like the very worst bits of London, the rankest parts of Wales and Middlesbrough.

This survey was clearly compiled by a vengeful social scientist from Ipswich.

The pinnacle of woe can be pinpointed exactly: you will be a divorced, middle-aged machine operative living in Thurrock where, despite being within spitting distance of an IKEA, your existence is so pitiful that you can only rate 7.1 out of 10 on the happiness scale. Frankly, that figure seems quite high. If the very worst life imaginable in Britain still scores 7.1 out of 10, people are simply not trying hard enough to be miserable – this bodes ill for Team GB in the Olympics.

The figures also revealed that people who are retired but live on a reasonable pension are also happy – to discover this fact, countless thousands of pounds of our cash was spent, which immediately made me less happy than I was before I realised I’d had to pay to find this out. As part of the government’s attempts to develop an alternative measure of national performance to GDP (and heaven knows, it’s any port in a storm when that’s the criteria) the Office for National Statistics has published its first tranche of data exploring how happiness and anxiety levels vary across the nation.

Responses by 165,000 people reveal that the average rating of “life satisfaction” in Britain is 7.4 out of 10, with show-offs in the local authority of Eilean Siar, Orkney and Shetland recording the highest satisfaction rates of 8.1 out of 10. And that lot haven’t even got a Co-op Local, let alone an IKEA.

We in Norfolk are, it appears, less happy than our neighbours in Suffolk and that lot are up against heavy odds, what with having to live in a county that is literally packed with people from Suffolk.

We’re also less happy than people living in Yorkshire and those that reside in Scotland, where Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t an erotic novel, it’s a description of the weather or a colour chart for teeth.

I think I would be happier if I lived in Scotland – other than the bit where I had to live in Scotland – on the basis that they enjoy a delightful form of financial apartheid which sees them paying far less tax per head than us for free prescriptions, free personal care in old age, no student tuition fees, free eye tests and free Aston Martins on-demand.

That I would have to subsist on a diet of deep-fried Mars Bars, Edinburgh rock, whisky, haggis and a deep-rooted hatred of the English would be a small price to pay for having a free dental examinations: the last time I went to the dentist it was £48 for a three-minute appoint-ment. And the dentist had bad breath (never an encouraging sign).

I can only assume that Norfolk’s low placing on the national happiness scale is part of a clever, county-wide plot to keep the rest of the population away: the survey equivalent of the A11 until it gets dualled. If we fool everyone that we’re all totally miserable, Outsiders Will Not Come.

Professor Richard Layard, a member of the ONS’s Measuring National Wellbeing Advisory Forum, said the data was a “huge step” towards policy-making.

“If we just say tell everyone that they can be a doctor and a lawyer, pay them lots of money, buy them a nice house and make dresses compulsory, the nation’s happiness would improve overnight,” he didn’t say, but I know that was what he was thinking.

Personally, I’d be far happier if David Cameron moved to a remote Scottish island, married Nick Clegg and promised to never work again. Then again, I’ve always been easy to please.

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