Rural Fermanagh folk happier and healthier

WHILE there are some obvious disadvantages to living in a rural area like Fermanagh – not least our chronic healthcare crisis – a major government report has revealed that despite all the challenges we’re still happier and healthier than our urban neighbours.
The ‘Key Rural Issues Report 2023’ was published earlier this month by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). It analysed publicly available data from a range of government and non-government sources to examine the key urban and rural differences across a range of areas.
The report, which calls into question claims by the likes of the Western Trust and other public sector employers that no one wants to move to rural areas like Fermanagh, shows population growth in rural areas is vastly outstripping that urban areas.
Indeed, from 2001-2020, rural populations grew by 20 percent, while urban populations grew by seven percent, an almost three-to-one difference.
The figures analysed appear to explain why, with the report showing people in rural areas are consistently more likely to rate their happiness and life satisfaction as high, and their anxiety levels as low.
Employers should take note of how the major study shows rural dwellers are more likely to leave school with 5 or more GCSEs at A* to C, and are more likely to enter higher education than their urban peers. It also shows rural workers are also more highly skilled than urban workers, are more likely to be in full-time employment and less likely to be economically inactive, and have higher job satisfaction.
However, despite this, the report shows average public sector earnings are substantially higher in urban areas – £30,523 compared with £24,656 in rural areas. There was a much smaller difference between private sector earnings in rural and urban workplaces.
With regard health, life expectancy in 2023 was higher in rural areas than in urban areas – 80.3 years for males, 83.7 years for females – however the figures showed this is beginning to fall slightly.
The report did note rural dwellers wait longer for emergency services than their urban counterparts.
With regard crime, unsurprisingly the report showed those living in rural areas were less likely to experience a number of different types of crime, including burglary, vandalism, and violent crime.
Elsewhere, the report showed the level of home ownership was higher in rural than in urban areas – 85 percent to 66 percent – with house prices in rural areas continuing to outstrip those in towns and cities.
It also showed broadband provision is steadily improving in rural areas, with availability an speeds increasing rapidly. In 2022 65 percent of rural households had access to full fibre, while in 2023 this had increased to 82 percent.

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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