What would make you think a place was happy? How friendly people are, how pretty a place is? A year long study into London has observed different factors in the capital and defined the places that are happiest. If someone smiles at you, does that make a place happy? How about if they barge past you on the pavement?
Fulham and Parsons Green came out on top. Crystal Palace, Dulwich Village, Barnes and Upper Norwood were also judged to be happy. Tooting, which is nearby, was counted as one of the most miserable, along with Gray’s Inn, Bloomsbury. Mile End, Whitechapel, Walworth and Elephant and Castle. Using a map like a weather forecast, the researchers plotted the happiness of different areas across London.
The researchers took numerous different factors into consideration, from body language, everyday acts of aggression on the street, facial expressions, laughter and bad driving. They calculated the scores of so called “micro-interactions” between strangers.
The study was designed to map well-being and revealed that the way we live can have a major impact on our lives. London is often seen as a vast sprawling mini city but in truth its neighbourhoods can be very different.
The science behind happy cities is one that is becoming increasingly important to planners and city leaders. In Bogota there is a Mayor of Happiness. There researchers have been keen to point out urban design as a major factor in defining how happy a city is. Social capital, defined as the social interactions and networks that keep people going, are seen as vitally important in terms of ensuring people are happy in a city. People who are connected are widely believed to be happier; they sleep better, describe themselves as happy and often live longer.
By contrast, a Swedish study found that people who have a 45 minute commute are much more likely to divorce. People living in what’s called “monofunctional” or suburban car dependent neighbourhoods are less trusting than those who walk everywhere. Neighbourhoods should be mixed with plenty of places to shop, use services, work and interact.
London is a large city with a vast sprawling metropolis. The study showed that London has various small neighbourhoods where people are found to be happy. Clarendon sees relocatees and business workers coming to the capital to stay for extended periods of time in a serviced apartment. The happiness of an area will affect their visit and it makes sense to be able to promote a neighbourhood as being happy. However it would also make sense to discover why a place is happy and measure those factors so that the warm glow can spread across the whole of London, not just in pockets.