Global Happiness – how is your city/place affecting your happiness?

Global Happiness – how is your city/place affecting your happiness?

How can we create happier places?

Everyone has different measures for happiness, but according to the World Happiness Report in 2022 happiness levels depend on a number of factors, including financial security, perceptions of social support, place of living, work, feelings of personal freedom, and much more.

According to the latest 2022 figures, Finland is the happiest country, with Zimbabwe and Afghanistan ranked as the least happiness. Interestingly, worldwide happiness comes in at an average score of 5.6, which is a slight improvement since last year’s report. Whilst this could be for a number of reasons – (i.e.- environment, work life balance, housing), or in Finland´s case – generous holiday allowance, parental leave and mental health support for workers) urban happiness plays a big part in these rankings.

The top 20 places for happiness includes the United Kingdom still in at 17th, and France at 20th, its highest ranking yet.

So, what is urban happiness and why is it so important in cities?

’Urban Happiness’ is a term used by urban planners and designers, to define the urban places where we experience joy that also contributes to a greater sense of wellbeing, belonging and resilience.

The level of happiness in a city, directly correlates to attracting more people to live there, increasing quality of life for its citizens and future developments that it may undertake. But what does it take for a city to achieve happiness?

According to  researcher Jason Lee Berker, strong community connections provide for an increased feeling of safety and a greater sense of belonging leading to people taking a more active role in their neighbourhood.

Social and community integration requires the collaboration of central and local governments, together with a focus on inclusive education and employment. This is the way to show citizens that they can achieve their goals. But how can we improve this?

Anu Realo PhD suggests that The happiest countries have accessible public health care, education systems, good housing, and public transport infrastructure. It´s evident that the lack of green spaces, air pollution, noise, and low neighbourhood safety contribute to higher prevalence of depressive mood in unhappy countries”.

So how can place shapers achieve this and what should be prioritised? Do we create more sustainable architecture? Public realm? Bike lanes?How can we ensure safer neighbourhoods with accessible public spaces and resources that all of the community can use?

Generally, in the UK, this responsibility is split across multiple stakeholders from the local authority to BIDs, developers and community groups who, in some cases, have all been allocated funding to  improve the area and drive integration. So, how can we capitalise on identifying the value of a city for the people who live there against a complex stakeholder framework while creating happier cities?

What do you think the UK could learn from Finland/and or others?