We’re happy and we know it, say islanders

People in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles are among the most satisfied with life, according to the government’s first national study into well-being.

The three island groups had the lowest percentages of folk with low or very low life satisfaction ratings (14.8 per cent) and the highest average rating for life satisfaction (8.1 out of 10) in the survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), followed by people in Rutland, Anglesey, Wiltshire and West Berkshire.

By contrast, people in Blackpool, County Durham, Swansea, Blaenau Gwent and North Ayrshire were among the least happy.

The ONS also found that people who are married, have jobs and own homes are the most satisfied, while teenagers and those who are in the traditional retirement age category are happiest.

The results generated interest in why people in the island groups were so relatively content.

According to Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell, who spoke on BBC Radio 4’s World at One, the absence of recession in the isles and low crime may have something to do with it.

“On a day like today with glorious sunshine it’s very easy to be happy, but Shetland is a great place to live, work and do business in,” he said. “We’ve always known that so it’s no surprise to us.

“To a large extent we’ve been insulated from the worst of the recession. The public sector is suffering the same kind of squeeze as everywhere else, but the private sector is picking that up. We have virtually full employment, very, very high qualities of education and very high qualities of housing. A very buoyant housing market that’s still reasonably priced.  

“And the other thing that we’ve got here is a society that’s very safe. We have very low levels of crime and when crime does occur, seven times out of 10 the crimes are cleared up. It’s a very happy and successful society to live in. The culture here is very much one of looking out for each other.

“There are downsides to everything, and the weather is one of those, and we enjoy the sunshine when it comes. At this time of the year we’ve got virtually wall to wall sunshine.

“The winter can be difficult, but it’s in the winter time that society rallies together and people look out for each other. The fire festival in January tends to brighten things up for us.”


Add Your Comment
  • Kathryn Macdonald

    • July 24th, 2012 18:43

    Did this survey read our minds or just state the obvious? I’m not one of you happy folk, by the way, I’m one of the miserable ones in Gwent. My hubby and I are trying to relocate to Shetland with our 3 sons ( ADR vacancy, anyone?) because we already know that you lucky ones have a better lifestyle and a more balanced outlook on life, this research just confirms it. I hope it’s publication doesn’t result in a wave of migration – do you think we can keep it hush hush please?

  • ian tinkler

    • July 24th, 2012 20:05

    Do not bother. By the time you arrive we will be one vast Wind Farm.

  • David McGowran

    • July 24th, 2012 20:24

    There is an issue of urbanisation to take into consideration. Urbanisation occured in Scotland and the rest of the Uk in the 19th cent in response to industrialisation. Industrialisation required that people were concentrated close to their place of work and as such were far removed from the land from where they had come. Urbanisation brings with it a process of deculturisation. Cultures develop over many centuries and as people suddenly become part of a new structure, both physically (tennement block) and in time (divisions of the day or ‘factory time’), many aspects of their culture are lost. The most sriking example is that thousands moving into cities at a stroke lost their culinary culture as they had no means of cooking and relied on the pie shop for a family meal. They worked for money which had to be converted into necessities and previous means of provision were unatainable as people had no land. In fact they were stacked in coups like foul and ceased to behave in ways considered natural as they themseves becames cogs in the machines they served. Many of these communities were formed from land working people for but short periods, until the profit margins tightened such that the capitalists could move on to their next venture and the workers were left stripped of their ways of life which included coping mechanisms to deal with hardship, relationships and grief. This legacy of disfuncionality is the foundation of today’s societal problems and unless addressed (I haven’t seen any evidence of it being addressed) we will never bring our population to a true state of ‘liberation’.

  • Johan Adamson

    • July 25th, 2012 9:06

    So capitalism would need to pay to remedy the situation in the communities and keep money aside to cover future deprivation and not just make money to hive off and take away to the multinational coffers? Is that called tax?

    Does this mean we are the most liberated? We do have the animal farm pigs to contend with and sometimes it feels like we are in the wilderness in this brave new world tho.

  • Kathryn Macdonald

    • July 25th, 2012 10:09

    Well at least I will have some familiar landmarks then Ian, as we have a fair few of them visible on the horizons of our Welsh mountains too! And to David – yes the evolution of “western” society has taken it down a not altogether pleasing path, but the pen that writes moves on, don’t you agree? The Shetland lifestyle, community and culture is richer (in my opinion, and that of the survey) due largely to it’s geographical isolation and the natural protection that affords. I feel that Shetlanders are leading by example. Surely that is the most powerful way to address the social issues of mainland UK that “modern progress” has brought about?
    I watch with envy as comments are posted with great passion and belief on topics of every nature relating to your wonderful Shetland home. If you can find such enthusiasm from a local resident here, return them to the psychiatric hospital please!
    Is the near full employment a myth, by the way? We’re having no luck finding a job so we can relocate – are we looking in the right places?

  • Stewart Mack

    • July 25th, 2012 12:01

    Good to see Ian Tinkler jumping staright in there on the pessimistic band wagon – Good show Ian, one day you might see a positive side to at least some aspects of Shetland life, but in the meantime i take it you will continue to be downbeat and pessimistic at every opportunity?

  • Ron Stronach

    • July 25th, 2012 12:17

    Another influx of Sooth Moothers seems more likely now that the news is out, the BBC in England said “Orkney” were the most contented, so hopefully they will all go there instead, that way some of us ex-locals can come back and still find some space without a windmill at the bottom of the garden.

    Now where did I put that Croft?

  • Johan Adamson

    • July 25th, 2012 13:31

    What is an ADR?

    what kind of work are you looking for?

    Despite the windmills, we still have a local plan to increase the population and encourage people to live here (the council has not yet joined up the local plan which shows an increasing population to the policies regarding savings and closing schools and windills).

  • Kathryn Macdonald

    • July 25th, 2012 14:16

    ADR work is driving dangerous goods, such as fuel tankers. If hubby can get work then I will proudly wear a Sooth Moother title, and I hope my family can enhance and contribute to the local community, rather than threaten Shetland traditions. If you need rugby playing youth, we’re the family for you!

  • Johan Adamson

    • July 25th, 2012 14:17

    Orkney are maybe more contented becasue they have more soothmoothers.

    Good to see others come here and appreciate the place and it would be good to populate the vacated crofts and once again fill up the rural schools.


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