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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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