Does moving make people happier?

by | Jan 30, 2024 | Moving, Relocation

Our homes are more than just physical spaces; they are extensions of our lives where we experience joy, build relationships, and grow as individuals and families. It’s natural to wonder if moving can bring us greater happiness, especially when we’re feeling dissatisfied with our current living situation.

But is the grass really greener on the other side? Do people automatically become happier in a place with a comforting climate, yearlong sunshine and a glistening beach just around the corner…somewhere like California?


Does moving to a nicer place make you happier? 

In 1998, researchers David A. Schkade and Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman conducted a study to test the belief that individuals living in California were happier due to the state’s attractive climate and culture. Surprisingly, their findings revealed that Californians reported similar levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with life as their Midwestern counterparts.


Are you happier, or is it a focusing illusion? 

According to the study, this is an example of a “focusing illusion,” where easily observable differences between locations are given more weight in judgements than they have in reality. We can feel satisfied by obtaining things that we want, or think we need – for a temporary mood boost, but it would take a lot more to actually make us happier people.


Our ideas of happiness are different 

In another study, Stephan Goetz, a professor at Penn State, looked at the number of days people reported having negative moods. California was actually amongst the states with the highest number of negative mood days across the entire US.

California is one of the sunniest, most beautiful places with mild climate and yearlong sunshine. Since exposure to sun is related to lower chances of depression, it may seem that moving to a sunny place is the key to happiness. But is it really the case?


In a series of experiments, people who at a young age reported that money did not matter to them then reported being happy at age 45, regardless of income level. On the other hand, people with lower incomes who saw money as something important to their happiness at a young age were reported to be “miserable”.


Where in the UK are people the happiest? 

The same principle applies here in the UK, where the seemingly most desirable locations might be the least happy. In Addliving’s analysis of the most desirable moving locations in the UK, they found five cities which generated the most interest – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London and Dundee.

However, in the Office for National Statistics recent survey on satisfaction with life, they found that some of these areas were actually the least happy in the country. London scored lowest for life satisfaction and ‘things being worthwhile’. London and Liverpool, as a city in the North-West, also scored highest for reported levels of anxiety.

These findings indicate that the factors that make an area appealing for movers do not correlate with a high quality of life and happiness once the move actually takes place. Just like the California-based studies, it would seem that there is much more to what makes us happy than our postcode.

In other words, our happiness is not solely determined by where we live. It is influenced by many other factors that we value – goals we have set for ourselves throughout our lives, whether that be a great career, a stable income or a loving family or relationships.

People in Richmond are reported to be the happiest in the UK. Do you agree?


How moving may make you happier 

While changing your geographic location may not guarantee happiness, some environmental factors can improve your overall well-being. If you are tempted to move, it’s worth considering the following:

Moving to a better neighbourhood 

Does your current neighbourhood lack qualities you value? Does it cover the amenities you need? Being close to nature, a local park or canal could encourage you to take walks more regularly that can contribute to better physical and mental health. You may prefer living in a neighbourhood with less nightlife and more art and cultural events, or vice versa!

Shorter commutes

Even if you live in a highly desirable location, a long daily commute can feel draining. Finding a home with a shorter commute may allow a better work-life balance, with more time to spend on the things you enjoy.


The quality of our community plays a crucial role in our happiness. If there are activities that you regularly partake in like a book club or a fitness class, moving to a location that makes these activities more accessible may help you enjoy life more.

Moving for peace & safety 

Do you feel unsafe in your current neighbourhood, or have you had unhappy, or even traumatic experiences? In that case, moving away from where the incidents happened could help you recover and move on. To get a better picture, you can look up your current and desired neighbourhood’s statistics on Crystal Roof.

It’s important to note that if you’re feeling unhappy in your current home due to domestic abuse or other harmful situations, immediate assistance is available. You can reach out to the following organisations:


To move, or not to move 

While moving can contribute to increased happiness, it is not a cure-all solution. The science behind happiness and moving suggests that our overall well-being is influenced by factors beyond just our physical location. Shorter commutes, a supportive community and a balanced living environment can all play a significant role in boosting our overall satisfaction.

So, if you are considering a move, take the time to evaluate your needs and find a location that aligns with them. While a true sense of happiness ultimately comes from within, a well-planned move can help create an environment that fosters personal growth and contentment.


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