COLUMN: Study finds rural areas are happier: What about Squamish?

While I love country music, I also attended a high school across from a mall. I am no country girl. Maybe that’s why I’m such a curmudgeon.
According to a study published last week by researchers at UBC and McGill University, rural Canadians are more satisfied with life overall than city slickers.

After analyzing 1,215 Canadian neighbourhoods, researchers found that despite generally higher incomes, lower unemployment rates and higher education, urban dwellers were found to be less happy on average than those living in rural areas.

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“Life is significantly less happy in urban areas,” it reads.

The data comes from the Canadian Community Health Survey and the General Social Survey, two national surveys that measure overall satisfaction with life. The researchers matched that information to geographic areas from Statistics Canada, looking at what role population density played.

In each type of area, levels of happiness varied. But the researchers found that even the most miserable residents of rural communities were happier on average than their urban counterparts.

It’s also worth noting that overall, Canadians report high levels of happiness and life satisfaction. The scale runs from zero to 10, and Canadian averages run from 7.04 to 8.94.

The study doesn’t mention Squamish specifically, but the the findings are relevant – in theory small town life should be more satisfying, since the happiest communities on average had less population density.

The researchers aren’t suggesting that lower density causes happiness, but it appears that Canadians in smaller towns find it easier to form strong social bonds in the community.

Any Squamites feeling superiority over “cidiots” might be interested to know that the researchers noted three factors giving happier rural areas the edge: shorter commute times, less transience in population and people spending less than 30 per cent of their income on housing.

Based on those factors alone, Squamish might be a small town with some big city patterns.

Judging by Vancouver’s low score referenced in an earlier 2015 study, even beautiful mountain views don’t appear to even things out.

One thing the researchers did not look at is how satisfaction correlates to movie theatres – but be careful what you wish for Squamish, because city amenities apparently come at a price.

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