Fermanagh and Omagh people are the happiest

Could it be the more relaxed pace of life, less congestion and stunning attractions right on the doorstep? The results of a new survey show that when it comes to happiness and well-being, the residents of Fermanagh and Omagh are the happiest of all.

The Marble Arch Caves are a stunning location on the doorstep of Fermanagh residents
The Marble Arch Caves are a stunning location on the doorstep of Fermanagh residents

AWAY from the hustle and bustle of city life in Belfast and Derry, it appears that residents west of the Bann are happier with life.

A new survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed people in Omagh and Fermanagh are the happiest of all the regions across Northern Ireland and Britain.

With scenic locations such as the Marble Arch Caves, Gortin Glen Forest Park and the Lakelands among the stunning attractions close by, perhaps it is no wonder people living in these two areas were rated more than 8 out of 10 on a happiness scale.

Omagh and Fermanagh residents are also among the most satisfied with life giving, again, more than 8 out of 10 for the year 2014/15.

People were questioned on four measures of well-being, which included happiness, life satisfaction, worthiness - feeling life was worthwhile - and anxiety.

Northern Ireland recorded higher average ratings for well-being for all measures except anxiety, which the ONS said has been the case for the past four years.

The figures also see Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon sharing a spot among the top 10, while mid and east Antrim featured too.

Figures show almost 40 per cent of people in the north rate their satisfaction with life as nine or 10 out of 10 - the highest proportion in the poll.

Overall, people here rated their happiness as 7.8 out of 10 and their anxiety levels as 3 out of 10.

Among Fermanagh residents enjoying the "more relaxed pace of life" in Fermanagh is politician Tom Elliott.

The Ulster Unionist MP said it is a "complete world of difference" in his home county compared with Belfast or London where he spends a large amount of time working.

"Having read the national well-being figures it is no surprise that Fermanagh and Omagh is the happiest place to live in the UK," he said.

"Having lived my whole life in Fermanagh, and having strong ties to Omagh, I know the people who live here, and they are in the main very happy people."

Mr Elliott added: "Part of it is that it is more relaxed atmosphere here. The people are more relaxed and it is a complete world of difference living in Fermanagh than it is to Westminster or Belfast.

"People know each other here, they speak to one another and they enjoyed a more relaxed way of living."

Rector of Holy Cross Church in north Belfast, Fr Gary Donegan, said he could understand why the region topped the poll saying his childhood in Co Fermanagh "couldn't have been better".

Fr Donegan, who grew up in the small village of Newtownbutler, described it as "like Little House on the Prairie without the white picket fence".

"Everything revolved around the parish and the GAA club," he said. "There was a great sense of community."

Fr Donegan said he was "proud to be a Fermanagh culchie".

"You often find in cities that even though you are surrounded by people, some people feel a sense of isolation and loneliness," he said.

Glenn Everett, ONS director of well-being, said: "Overall, people are generally rating their lives higher than they did four years ago.

"But what is interesting is that they show a slight growth in inequality between people rating their lives highly and those reporting low levels of personal well-being.

"In other words, a growing inequality that policy makers need to consider."

Overall Happiness out of 10

Top 5

1 Fermanagh and Omagh 8.26

2 Ribble Valley 8.21

3 Eilean Siar 8.15

4 West Somerset 8.14

5 Orkney Islands 8.09

Bottom 5

1 Bolsover 6.89

2 Cannock Chase 6.92

3 Dundee City 7.02

4 Dover 7.03

5 Liverpool 7.05