Following almost two years of highly challenging social, financial, and health-related conditions across Britain and the rest of the world, the tenth yearly study by Rightmove into the happiest places to live in Great Britain has found that a sense of belonging and community spirit were the most important factors for people to be happy where they live.
Rightmove’s annual Happy at Home Index reveals that a market town in Northumberland has once again been crowned the happiest place to live in Great Britain.
This year’s index found that residents of Hexham were happier than any other area, taking back the top spot having last been crowned the happiest place to live in 2019 – and is also popular with residents for its access to nature and green spaces, and how friendly and polite people are.
The average asking price for a home in Hexham is £297,088, an increase of 6% compared to last year (£280,128) and an increase of 20% compared to five years ago (£246,919). This is lower than the current national average of £342,401.
The Happy at Home Index, in its tenth year, was conducted among over 21,000 people across Great Britain and asks residents how they feel about where they live, as well as asking them to rank ten happiness factors.
Richmond upon Thames came second overall in this year’s study, marking a rise up the national rankings, as well as being the happiest place in London for the seventh year running.
Stirling is this year’s happiest place in Scotland, while Llandrindod Wells, fifth place overall, is the happiest place to live in Wales.
Community is key
This year’s study found a sense of belonging, the friendliness of the locals, and being able to be yourself were the most important factors in feeling happy in the area in which you live.
It shows how important having a sense of community is to overall happiness. A third (seven) of this year’s top 20 happiest towns were market towns, typically being smaller towns with weekly markets bringing the local community together.
This importance of connection carries over into this year’s study following the lockdown periods and builds on the findings from last year, where people felt they had reconnected to their area and the local community.
From city to coast
The importance of togetherness can also be seen in the types of settlements that made people most happy. Those in villages were more likely to be happy in their area than those in towns or cities, as they were more likely to feel the sense of community in their area, and have access to nature and green spaces.
Those living in a coastal village were the happiest of all, and those living in a coastal town or city were more likely to be happy in their area than someone living in a similar home inland.
Get moving, get happy
The record-breaking housing market over the past year means that Rightmove predicts by the end of the year 1.5 million transactions will have taken place. The results of this year’s study show that those who have made a move are happier in their area than those who haven’t, regardless of where they have moved to.
More than two-thirds (69%) of people who moved in the last year, chose to move to a different area. Nearly two-thirds of these people (64%), said they are happier in the area they now live, compared with where they moved from. One in five (21%) said they were just as happy in their new area.
Being happier in a new area was highest amongst those who moved from a town to a village, with 81% saying they were happier where they now live, and 11% were just as happy as to where they lived before.
Interestingly, the study showed people were more likely to stay in the same type of settlement or make a ‘single stage’ move in the search for happiness.
Those that lived in a city, were more likely to move to a town than a village, while those who lived in a town, were more likely to move to a village than a city. Those who lived in a village were more likely to move to a town than a city.
Tim Bannister, Rightmove’s Director of Property Data comments: “It’s been an incredibly busy year in the housing market, with a lot of people deciding that now is the right time to move. It is fascinating to see that people who moved in the last 12 months were more likely to be happy in their areas than those who did not. Whether it may be a couple looking for a small change in the same area, tenants looking for more space, or a family completely changing their lifestyle and moving from the city to the coast, this has been the year that people have really seized the opportunity to move, and turned ideas into action.”
Derek Kennedy, Mayor of Hexham, adds: “Hexham is thrilled to be awarded the happiest place to live in Great Britain. We are a small town with great history, Hexham Abbey and other historical buildings and our Market Place is 800 years old. There is a wonderful community spirit, people are very supportive of one another. There are lots of community interest groups that gets people working for the greater good. Excellent schools ensure good educational standards. Lots of organised sports including a weekly Park run, cricket, tennis, squash, golf and rowing and other water sports on the mighty River Tyne. The open countryside is wonderful with Hadrian’s Wall on our doorstep.
“The Town Council recently introduced a free live music event twice a week in our glorious Bandstand, drawing around 200 people to every session. Our events such as Spook night, Remembrance Day, Farmers Market and Christmas Market draw lots of people from across the region to the town. We have big ambitions to progress our sustainable development and we work with interested groups to enhance the town. We all know how great it is to live in Hexham but to win this accolade is fantastic, thank you.”