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Why, despite Covid, do many people in France report feeling happier?

A recent poll found that residents of Grand Est and Pays de la Loire were the happiest. On the negative side, key worries concerned climate change and the future of French society

The Baromètre des Territoires 2021 survey results have been published Pic: Aleksandr Oserov / Shutterstock

Grand Est and Pays de la Loire are the regions in France where people are happiest, according to the results of a new study. 

The Baromètre des Territoires is an annual questionnaire carried out by think tanks Elabe and the Institut Montaigne, in partnership with SNCF and Franceinfo. 

The results of its latest survey – which asked 10,054 participants spread across all French regions to answer over 100 questions – was published yesterday (November 16). 

In Grand Est and Pays de la Loire, 42% of respondents stated that they are “very happy”, compared to 37% in Ile-de-France, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

Overall, 78% of participants said that they were “happy” and 57% were optimistic about their personal future, an increase of 5% and 10% respectively on the survey results from 2018.

In Pays de la Loire, meanwhile, 61% of respondents were feeling positive about the future.

“Shaken by the health crisis, French people are redefining their priorities and sanctifying their social and geographic ‘inner circle,’” the Baromètre des Territoires report said.

“For one French person in two, family holds a more significant place [in their life] than it did before the pandemic, [a fact which] translates into the time and the care we give to relatives.

“From the constraints of a horizon [which was] shrunk by the pandemic, a majority of French people moved towards a desire to ‘feel good at home’. Protected in their cocoon, French people have worked at their own happiness [...], a happiness which leads the majority to view their personal future with optimism.

“Being in good health and feeling good in one’s body are currently the top two ‘essentials’ for a successful life. 

“[And] even if it is sometimes stalled and limited by the demands of our everyday, the famous ‘search for meaning’ appears to drive the evolution of French people’s dreams and ambitions: having a job that they have chosen and that they like, knowing how to make things by hand and having a job which is useful for society are becoming priorities.”

Contrasting feelings of discontent 

On the other end of the spectrum, 60% of all respondents and 63% of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Nouvelle-Aquitaine residents were feeling pessimistic about the future of French society. 

In general, 68% of people believe that they live in an unjust society, but this figure is down 10% on 2018’s survey, taken at the height of the gilets jaunes protests. Similarly, although 60% of participants were pessimistic about the future of French society, this proportion is 10% lower than last time.

However, six in every ten respondents judge that the country’s economic model is no longer compatible with the challenges posed by the climate crisis, while three quarters stated that people in France must make changes to their lifestyles. 

“The pandemic has caused the return to old economic and social tensions which emerged most notably during the gilets jaunes crisis of the end of 2018,” the report said. “Buying power is currently the second most important personal worry of French people (with 31% of respondents citing it). 

“This concern is also fuelled by worries over social inequalities (18%, eighth most cited issue) and employment (16%, ninth most cited issue). 

“Today, 36% [of respondents] have to limit their spending to reach the end of the month (41% in Hauts-de-France and 40% in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté). This allows 27% to stay within their monthly budget, but for 9% it is not enough and they must dip into their savings or borrow money.”

The Covid pandemic had also resulted in feelings of “weariness” and “longing” among 41% and 40% of respondents. These emotions overtook the satisfaction felt by 34% of participants, the confidence felt by 33% and the serenity also referenced by 33%.

Feeling happy in one’s neighbourhood 

In Brittany and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté 75% and 71% of respondents felt safe in their neighbourhoods, while in Ile-de-France and Hauts-de-France only 57% and 58% said the same.

Finally, while 44% of all respondents said that they could see themselves moving out of the region where they lived in the future, this only applied to 31% of people in Brittany.

Around 8% of all participants have already chosen to move house since the Covid pandemic began, while 19% hope to do so in the future. 

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