What does your postcode say about you?

“City centres with the most dense populations and that offer plenty of activities seem to attract people who are highly extrovert and open to new experiences.”

Markus Jokela and a research group investigated the compatibility of individuals and neighbourhoods, i.e. in what kind of neighbourhoods do various individual psychological characteristics produce the most happiness.” “The attractiveness of residential areas is often evaluated by taking into account the interaction between individuals and neighbourhoods. We wanted to combine a demographic, psychological and geographical analysis to investigate these interactions,” explains Markus, an academic doctor at the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences at the University of Helsinki.

Jokela, together with his British, Dutch and American colleagues, analysed data on personality and life satisfaction for over 56,000 Londoners. They compared the over 200 postal districts in London to find out the differences between urban areas.

The study showed that plenty of conciliatory spirit and conscientiousness ensured that people were satisfied, especially in areas with low income, high unemployment and a low average level of satisfaction. Personality traits had less impact on inhabitants’ life satisfaction in affluent areas than they did in poorer areas.

“This is likely to stem from the fact that in poorer areas, people face more of life’s challenges and hardships. Different people cope with these challenges in different ways, partly due to their personality, which means personality differences can be seen more clearly in poorer areas,” says Markus. The study showed that in proportion, openness was a stronger predictor for happiness in the more affluent city centre areas than in the suburbs and outskirts of the city. More affluent areas probably offer more culture and other attractions, which increases the life satisfaction of more open-minded people in particular,” continues Markus.

However, people do not often choose the area they are going to live in alone, but as a couple. The study did not take into account the joint decisions of couples or other factors related to stages of life.” There was a high level of openness to experiences among people living in the centre of London, but these people do not always have like-minded spouse. One goal of our further study is to carry out a closer modelling of the opportunities for people to move and choose where to live and the way in which this has an effect of regional differences.”

However, it is not a good idea to draw firm conclusions about your own or your spouse’s personality purely based on where you live.”On the individual level, the links between personality and neighbourhood are so weak that your neighbourhood is not a very accurate indicator for assessing personality. It is more an issue of the formation of demographic regional differences,” says Markus.

No corresponding studies have been carried out on Finnish towns. However, the idea is to extend the project using corresponding research frames also in Finland, but not in relation to personality. Jokela explains that it would be reasonable to expect similar results to those from London at least in cities that are sufficiently heterogeneous regarding their neighbourhoods.

The project has also received plenty of international attention. The Guardian and the Daily Mail, among others, have published the results of the study. The BBC is also making an interactive application based on the study for its website to help people work out where in the United Kingdom they would be the happiest on the basis of their personality.” I am excited to find out how the users will react to this information,” exclaims Markus.

Academy research fellow Markus Jokela and his working group’s project Selective migration and neighbourhood effects received funding through the funding round for specially allocated grants arranged by Kone Foundation on the theme of Population Change.

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