Leading article: Happy days

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The Independent Online

Is there anything so relentlessly pursued and yet so badly defined as happiness? The Halifax bank carried out a survey two years ago to find Britain's happiest locality. Using criteria such as employment levels, house prices and salaries, it identified Elmbridge in Surrey as the most blissful enclave in the land.

Now the British Household Panel Survey has tried the same thing. In this case, though, they asked residents questions about their "subjective wellbeing" such as whether they get uninterrupted sleep at night and whether they feel confident in their daily lives. This study has named Powys as the most contented area.

So perhaps the key to happiness is a mansion in the Home Counties and a modest holiday home in South Wales. But what about unhappiness? If your town appears on the bottom of the contented list, don't start packing, but remember the words of George Bernard Shaw's John Tanner in Man and Superman: "A lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth."

And what's that if not a reason to be cheerful?