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16th October 2017

Unhappy Manny?

A recent report by the Office of National Statistics has found Manchester to be one of the saddest and most anxious places in the UK — is there anything that can be done?

Brexit, the rainy arrival of winter, inflation of the magic bus to £1.50; it is easy to see how some Mancunians could feel particularly sad this time of year. But are we quite as sad and anxious as the latest personal well-being report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggests?

Since 2011, the ONS has recorded the life satisfaction and happiness of people up and down the UK in order to get a sense of the well-being of the nation. This year’s report ran from April 2016 to March 2017 and found that Manchester was one of the saddest and most anxious places in the UK.

The mean average happiness rating was 0.31 points below the national average, and 0.23 points below the average for the North West. The life satisfaction rating was also below the national and regional average, by 0.23 and 0.14 points respectively.

The only rating on which Manchester scored above average was the level of anxiety felt by residents. Our anxiousness rating was a whopping 0.47 points higher than the national average. It’s fair to say that something isn’t quite right in Manny.

The State of the City Report 2017 was published around the same time. This revealed the council’s take on how the city was doing in relation to its prescribed goals. Environmentally, the report revealed that there has been a 37 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions since 2005 — meaning that Manchester will not reach its target of 41 per cent reduction by 2020 — but no such reduction in nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Manchester saw a 9 per cent increase in the number of homes built in 2016/17 compared to 2015/16, although homelessness remains a major issue, with Manchester having a rate almost double the national average.

The student population has returned to its pre-fee rise peak in 2012, contributing — potentially in equal amounts — to the council reaching its goal of Manchester becoming the ‘UK’s youth capital,’ and to Manchester experiencing a higher rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions than the rest of England — 220 more per 100,000, to be precise.

There has, however, reassuringly, been a 10 per cent increase in visits to the wonderful cultural and recreational facilities this city has to offer (yes, there is more to Manny than Oxford Road and NQ).

Whilst emotionally Mancunians may be lagging behind the rest of the country, the report revealed that economically they are not. Employment continues to rise, and Gross Value Added (GVA: an indicator of economic performance) increased by 5.4 per cent from 2014 to 2015.

Similarly, the latest data from the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) showed a more cautiously positive image of economic growth. While the UK’s average growth in 2017 was forecast at 1.6 per cent, Manchester is leading the way with 3.25 per cent forecast growth — but this is still below expectations. Expectations for 2018 economic growth had to be downgraded from 1.5 per cent to 1.2 per cent.

Overall, the three reports paint a fairly mixed picture. It is clear that Manchester needs to drink less and look out for each other’s well-being a bit more. We can only hope that over the years Manchester will climb up the ratings and become not only the Northern powerhouse, but the Northern happy-house too.

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