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QUALITY OF LIFE

MAP: Where are the happiest areas of France?

A new study has given a comprehensive view of happiness levels in different parts of France, with the area where you live having almost as strong an effect on happiness as whether you are young, rich or in a couple.

Hikers walk in the French Alps
A new study has suggested that people living outside of big French cities are more likely to be happy. (Photo by OLIVIER CHASSIGNOLE / AFP)

France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies compiled self-reported quality of life data among the population between 2010-19. 

In results published last week, researchers found that the average person living in mainland France rated their quality of life at 7.4 out of 10 – with all responses given before the pandemic.

The study noted that people who are “young, rich, in a couple, in good health and born French” were most likely to view their quality of life positively.

“Life satisfaction increases with the richness of a commune but the impact of this is weaker than the with the impact of individual wealth,” wrote the authors. 

But the geographical differences should not be understated. 

On the map below, people living in the départements shaded in blue reported lower than average life satisfaction, while those shaded in yellow and orange reported higher than average life satisfaction. 

A map shows self-reported quality of life in France.

A map shows self-reported quality of life in France. Blue areas indicate départements where quality of life is lower than the national average, yellow indicates it is higher and orange indicates significantly higher. Grey areas mean quality of life is close to the national average and dark grey areas indicate départements where data was not available. Source: INSEE

The data indicates that people are happiest in the the largely rural départements of Gard, Cantal, Aude and Ariège départements. 

The areas with the lowest reported quality of life include Tarn in south west France, the Paris suburban area of Seine-Saint-Denis, Loir-et-Cher near Orélans and Isère in eastern France. 

Seine-Saint-Denis is not the only greater Paris area to perform poorly. Paris itself, Yvelines and Val-d’Oise all reported lower than average quality of life. 

On a broader scale, the study revealed that people living in rural areas were happier than those living in big cities, but a number of other factors also had an impact. People living in detached houses, for example, were more likely to report higher quality of life, as were those in employment. 

The survey also found that foreigners living in France were happiest in areas where the overall proportion of foreigners is lower. The same can be said for unemployed people. 

The researchers also found that self-reported life satisfaction generally decreases with age and that middle-aged men were generally happier than middle-aged women. 

A graph shows that self-reported quality of life among people in France decreases with age.

A graph shows that self-reported quality of life among people in France decreases with age. Source: INSEE
 
The overall level of life satisfaction across the country was more or less the same in 2010 as it was by 2019. But data for people living in the regions of Normandy, Centre-Val de Loire and Pays de Loire suggests that overall quality of life decreased by about 2-3 percent. The quality of life for people living in Paris increased marginally. 
 

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Traffic warnings for France ahead of holiday weekend

This weekend represents the first chance to 'faire le pont' and have a long holiday weekend - and the French seem set to make the most of it with warnings of extremely heavy traffic from Wednesday.

Traffic warnings for France ahead of holiday weekend

Thursday, May 26th marks the Christian festival of Ascension and is a public holiday in France.

More importantly, it’s the first time this year that French workers have had the opportunity to faire le pont (do the bridge) and create a long weekend.

In France, most public holidays fall on different days each year and if they happen to fall on the weekend then there are no extra days off work.

This year that happened on New Year’s Day (a Saturday) and both of the early May public holidays (the workers’ holiday on May 1st and VE Day on May 8th, which both fell on a Sunday).

READ ALSO Why 2022 is a bad year for public holidays

But as Ascension is on a Thursday, workers have the option to take a day of annual leave on Friday and therefore create a nice four-day weekend.

And it appears that many are planning on doing just that, as the traffic forecaster Bison futé is predicting extremely heavy traffic from Wednesday evening, as people prepare to make their after-work getaway and head to the coast, the countryside or the mountains to fully profit from their holiday weekend.

According to Bison futé maps, the whole country is coloured red – very heavy traffic – on both Wednesday and Thursday as people take to the roads to leave the cities.

Map: Bison futé

Meanwhile Sunday is coloured black – the highest level, meaning extremely heavy traffic and difficult driving conditions – across the whole country. 

Map: Bison futé

If you were hoping to take the train instead you might be out of luck, SNCF reports that most TGV services are sold out for over the holiday weekend. 

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