Nfld. & Labrador

Want happiness? Live east, researchers find

Most of Canada's happiest cities are on the East Coast — but geography is not necessarily the key factor, researchers have found.

Atlantic Canadian cities score highly on national quality of life survey

Most of Canada's happiest cities are on the East Coast — but geography is not necessarily the key factor, researchers have found.

Cities that top the list:

1. Saint John

2. Quebec City

3. Charlottetown

4, 5. (tied) Moncton, N.B., Kitchener, Ont.

6. St. John's

7. Saskatoon

8. Regina

9. Winnipeg

10. Halifax

(Source: Canadian Institute of Advanced Research survey)

According to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Canadians are most likely to be satisfied with the quality of life in places like Saint John, Moncton, N.B.,and Charlottetown, all of which placed in the top five of a survey of 18 Canadian cities.

In St. John's, which ranked in sixth place, researchers found the same sense of trust in neighbours and engagement in local activities and concerns.

"There's a really great sense of community here. You go to any coffee shop and see people you know," said Alexis Templeton, a St. John's potter who runs a business in the city's bustling downtown.

April Galway, a lifelong resident of St. John's, said she can withstand brutal winters by focusing on "the warmth and the friendliness of people, and it is very important to know your neighbour."

In fact, knowing your neighbours— and trusting those around you— is a key reason why a city like Saint John tops the list,said John Helliwell, a University of British Columbia economist who led the research project.

He said his ongoing work, which has not yet been published, suggests a correlation between lower levels of life satisfaction in some of the country's most affluent cities— Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary among them— and the lower levels of trust among neighbours in those cities.

Helliwell said the three cities also have a steady flow of newcomers who have yet to make connections.

"They're more inclined to feel harried. They're more inclined to feel pressured," Helliwell told CBC News. "They have a little less time to build these positive relationships."

As well, the data show that happiness does not necessarily entail trust. Residents of Quebec City, for instance, placed second overall for satisfaction with life, but trailed most other cities for trusting neighbours.

All the same, Helliwell said the findings suggest that cities with a static population and deep roots are happier places.

"It's really the extent to which people feel connected to each other, committed to each other and open," he said.

Helliwell acknowledged that gauging what influences life satisfaction is complex. However, he said more economists and city planners are starting to pay attention to this unique field of research.