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Would a bigger house really make you happier?

The impact of property sizes on happiness levels might be weaker than you think

People living in the cities with the largest and smallest homes are just as happy as each other, new research suggests. 

Canterbury, the city with the smallest average property size, and Derby, the city with the largest, have almost identical scores on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) happiness scale, according to analysis by property warranty firm LABC Warranty.

So does the size of your property make any difference to your happiness?

Here, we take a look at the average house size and happiness of cities across the UK to see whether bigger really is better.


Does bigger necessarily mean better?

The average Derby home has 83.9 square metres of floor space – that’s more than anywhere else in the UK. At the other end of the spectrum, Canterbury offers the smallest city properties, at just 59.9 square metres on average.

But according to Census data, both cities have relatively similar happiness scores: 7.4 for Derby and 7.35 for Canterbury.

How do ONS happiness scores work?

ONS happiness data comes from the UK census, taken once every 10 years. In 2011, people across the country were asked how happy they felt the day before the survey on a scale of 0-10, where 10 is happiest.

Looking at cities alone, the average happiness score was 7.46 – close to the scores of both Canterbury and Derby.

The range, however, was relatively small. Inverness, the happiest city in the UK, had 8.13. In contrast, the UK’s least happy city was Carlisle, at 7.16.

How does house size affect happiness?

Although Canterbury and Derby had similar scores, cities with smaller houses generally did report lower levels of happiness.

The average home’s floor space across the UK’s 10 least-happy cities is 69.9 square metres. These cities, which include Belfast, Glasgow, Liverpool and Wolverhampton, have an average happiness score of 7.23.

In contrast, the 10 happiest cities in the UK, which include St Albans, Truro, Chester and Lichfield, have properties with an average 77.4 square metres of floor space and a 7.92 average happiness score.

The link between smaller houses and lower happiness scores is concerning, in light of research from last year, which found that homes built since 2010 are the smallest they have been in 20 years.

The link between large homes and happiness is much weaker, with a number of notable outliers. Chester, for example, is the sixth-happiest city in the UK, but it’s near the middle of the table when the cities are ranked by average property size.

Of course, property size is not the only thing that affects people’s happiness. Employment, green space, and a sense of community are just a few of the other factors that could make a difference to resident’s satisfaction.

Given that the average floor space in Lichfield, the UK’s second-happiest city, is a moderate 74 square metres, it’s likely that factors other than property size are influencing the mindset of the city’s residents.

Homes in Norwich and Nottingham, the joint-second-unhappiest cities, also offer around 74 square metres on average.

House prices in the UK’s happiest cities

Which? looked at data from the UK House Price Index to find out how much it would cost to buy a property in the happiest cities in the UK.

You can get a lot of happiness for your money in Inverness, the country’s happiest city. The average home in the local area costs £171,996 – that’s £57,435 below the national average of £229,431.

Seven of the top 10 happiest cities have average property prices below this figure. Armagh, Bangor, Chester, Durham, Perth and Truro are all cheaper than the national average.

St Albans, on the other hand, is the most expensive city at the top of the leaderboard. The average home costs £506,980.

Keep in mind that these averages are for homes in these cities’ local authority areas, which could include nearby towns, suburbs and rural areas in some cases.

How happy is your city?

You can search the interactive table below to find the average floor space, happiness score and property price for almost every UK city.

Clicking the column headings will sort the table by these metrics. A few cities were excluded due to an insufficient number of listings on Rightmove.

Of course, property prices, size and happiness aren’t the only factors you’ll need to consider when choosing where to live. To compare areas based on extra datasets including schools, life expectancy and income, check out our powerful area comparison tool.

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