Cheer up! You're in Wales

LONDON (Reuters) - The most sparsely populated areas of Britain are the happiest, research has showed.

The area with the highest wellbeing was Brecknock, Montgomery and Radnor in Powys, Wales, according to the research presented at the Royal Geographical Society.

Other thinly populated areas of Scotland and northern England also fared well.

“There really is something about the intrinsic nature of places which can influence happiness and wellbeing,” said Dimitris Ballas, joint researcher at the University of Sheffield.

“The environment, lack of green spaces, air and noise pollution, crime rates: all of these influence happiness.”

Other Welsh towns were rather more gloomy, with the former coal mining district of Rhondda Cynon Taff in south Wales deemed as having the lowest wellbeing.

The least happy place was Edinburgh after factors such as age, income, employment, health and education were taken into account.

The research, carried out by the universities of Manchester and Sheffield, used data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which includes happiness questions, and the Census of the UK population.

It looked at the importance of geography on happiness as well as the more conventional measurements such as economics and psychology.

Some densely populated areas made the top 10, including Nottingham and Macclesfield.

Perhaps surprisingly, unemployment does not lead to severe unhappiness, as long as your neighbours are also out of work, the research found.

“This also highlights the importance of social justice issues and social and spatial inequalities in determining happiness,” Ballas said.

Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Steve Addison