Farewell to whinging Welsh and chirpy Cockneys, there's a lot of happiness in the hillsides

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The Independent Online

"Of course people are happier here," exclaimed Rosemary Brangwyn, post mistress in the west Wales village of Port Enyon. "People here are not so caught up in the rat race. Not everyone is so fast on the hoof. People are not so obsessed with having status symbols and money."

"Of course people are happier here," exclaimed Rosemary Brangwyn, post mistress in the west Wales village of Port Enyon. "People here are not so caught up in the rat race. Not everyone is so fast on the hoof. People are not so obsessed with having status symbols and money."

Her instincts appear to be correct. According to a new survey, Mrs Brangwyn, whose post office on the Gower Peninsula is also the village store, lives among some of the happiest people in Britain. Less stressed, less pressured and less encumbered by pollution, high prices and long journeys to work, people in Wales come out top in a "feel-good" index. By contrast, Londoners are the most miserable.

"[The survey] highlights the different priorities people have in their lives and these factors can impact on their overall happiness," said Alison Freund, head of customer research for Lloyds TSB, which carried out the survey. "People in Britain are increasingly trying to find a balance between work and family life and to respect wider concerns they have for the environment and the future of the country."

The survey asked 6,000 people about their satisfaction with work, their homes, health, money, stress, noise and loneliness. It awarded points between one and 10 depending on how satisfied people said they were.

People in Wales and Scotland and rural areas of England had less concerns about crime and stress, while people in London were more worried about noise and pollution. More than 60 per cent of Londoners questioned said they had suffered from stress in the last three months.

Exactly why people in Wales are happier than their counterparts in other predominantly rural areas was not clear. But observers point out that Wales has undergone a transformation in recent years: large-scale investment in new industries has been coupled with an obsession with all things Welsh, from the Millennium Stadium to Cerys Mathews, singer with the pop group Catatonia.

But there are other factors. A survey carried out by The Independent shows that house prices are vastly lower in Wales than in the south east, while unemployment - once high in Wales, is no below the average for Britain.

"I believe that the things that attract visitors to Wales are the same things appreciated by the people who lived there," said Robin Gwyn, a spokesman for the Wales Tourist Board.

"People say they appreciate the peace and quiet and the chance to have a think without always having to rush around. I think in an urban environment with access to so much constant information, people think they have to keep up to speed on everything.

"And I also think that people feel safer here. The Dyfed-Powys police area, which covers about a third of Wales, has the lowest crime rate in Britain. It must be of the few places you can go out for the day and not really worry too much if you have forgotten to lock your door."

The survey also revealed that residents of Yorkshire were the most optimistic in Britain, while those of the South-west were the most pessimistic.

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