The Best UK Cities to Work In For Your Mental Health 2022

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Author: Work.Life
Estimated read time: 6 mins
Published: 05/09/2022
The best UK cities to work in for your mental health 2022

Work is a big part of our lives — we have to find happiness in our daily roles. Businesses can support employee happiness through measures like corporate wellness programs, promoting inclusivity and employee recognition. But happiness at work goes beyond your company culture and office space.

The city you live in can have a huge impact on your mental health too. Smooth public transport, less traffic, cleaner air and access to health and fitness facilities are all examples of how location impacts wellbeing.

Using these and other important metrics, we’ve researched and ranked the best cities to live and work in to improve your mental health.



best cities to work in the UK: infographic


Population Density

Newcastle has the fewest people per square metre

Did you know that the higher the population density, the likelier people are to suffer from mental illness? Research shows a 21% increase in the likelihood of depressive symptoms for those living in densely populated areas.

This isn’t an issue in Newcastle: The Northern city is one of the best places for mental health thanks to having the lowest population density of any city in the UK, with fewer than 600 people per square kilometre.

City Population Density (People Per Square Kilometre) Ranking
Newcastle 584 1
Northampton 673 2
Leeds 1,472 3
Bradford 1,491 4
Sheffield 1,513 5
Sunderland 1,995 6
Manchester 2,248 7
Bournemouth 2,470 8
Cardiff 2,572 9
Middlesbrough 2,671 10

Source: 2021 Census data


Air Pollution

Southampton has the freshest air

Good air quality is crucial for both physical and mental health in cities, preventing organ damage, risk of mental disorders and even preventing dementia.

IQAir ranks the air quality scores of different locations to track air pollution levels and risks, with 1 being the best, cleanest air, and 100 being the worst. IQAir ranks Southampton with an air quality score of 3 — almost the best it can possibly be — making it a clear winner regarding low air pollution.

We’re also delighted to see all our Work.Life locations appear in the top 10 places for air quality!


City Air Pollution Score Ranking
Southampton 3 1
Bristol 5 2
Manchester 7 3
Leeds 9 4
Reading 10 5
Plymouth 12 6
London 13 7
Sheffield 14 8
Bradford 15 9
Brighton 17 10

Source: IQAir


Traffic Congestion

Coventry has the least traffic

There’s nothing worse than being in a rush to a meeting or to see an important client, only to find yourself stuck in seemingly never-ending traffic.

If you want to avoid the agitation of traffic, road rage, and slow commutes, Coventry is the place to be, with the lowest traffic congestion level in the UK (although we note Reading is a close second, where our Work.Life King’s Road shared workspace is based).

City Traffic Congestion Level Ranking
Coventry 299 1
Reading 295 2
Stoke 293 3
Middlesbrough 257 4
Southampton 237 5
Leeds 193 6
Bradford 193 7
Sheffield 189 8
Nottingham 184 9
Sunderland 182 10

Source: TomTom


Unemployment Rates

Reading has the best employment rate

Naturally, having a safe and secure source of income is an important aspect of mental health. No one enjoys worrying about finances or where their next pay check is coming from, and having work you enjoy and which offers progression is a key part of feeling accomplished.

Named ‘the UK’s Silicon Valley’, Reading has the best employment rate overall, with only 2.8% unemployment. (No wonder Work.Life’s Reading branch is such a bustling hub of activity, creativity and collaboration!)

City Unemployment Rate Ranking
Reading 2.80% 1
Bristol 2.80% 2
Plymouth 3.40% 3
Bournemouth 3.40% 4
Southampton 3.50% 5
Portsmouth 3.50% 6
Brighton 3.70% 7
Cardiff 3.80% 8
Nottingham 4.10% 9
Sheffield 4.20% 10

Source: Centre for Cities

best cities for mental health uk; man relaxing and happily working

Average Disposable Income

Londoners have the most disposable income, averaging over £30,000 per year

Those with higher household incomes experience higher levels of happiness, with more financial resources to fund a comfortable home, holidays abroad, and luxury items like a nice car or fashion items. While there’s said to be a drop-off point for the happiness money can bring (estimated at $75,000 USD per annum, or £62,000 in the UK), the link between disposable income and wellbeing is nonetheless there.

Unsurprisingly, London is top when it comes to disposable income. Londoners receive higher wages, taking home an average of £30,256 in disposable income per year to enjoy the entertainment the capital offers.

City Average Gross Disposable Income Ranking
London £30,256 1
Reading £23,203 2
Brighton £23,142 3
Bournemouth £21,652 4
Northampton £20,947 5
Bristol £20,249 6
Leeds £18,634 7
Southampton £17,529 8
Cardiff £17,431 9
Plymouth £17,343 10

Source:  Office of National Statistics (ONS)



Reading is the fittest UK city

Studies show that doing 30 to 60 minutes of exercise 3 to 5 times per week can give you significant mental health benefits. Even if you’re a busy professional, there are ways to find time to fit this in. For example, all our Work.Life coworking spaces provide secure bike storage so you can cycle to work, and we provide free weekly yoga classes for our members to get an exercise fix during the day.

Reading is the city most committed to exercising, with the highest amount of gyms per person compared to other UK locations.

City Number of Gyms Population People per Gym Ranking
Reading 89 161,780 1,818 1
Brighton 125 277,200 2,218 2
Leicester 145 357,394 2,465 3
Bristol 136 467,009 3,434 4
Nottingham 91 331,297 3,641 5
Manchester 140 553,020 3,950 6
Liverpool 106 496,784 4,687 7
Leeds 80 792,525 9,907 8
London 162 1,607,000 9,920 9
Birmingham 89 1,149,000 12,910 10

A number of gyms per location sourced by searching Google Maps.



Brighton is the UK’s wellness hub

Brighton is also the best city to work in for those committed to holistic wellness. The city has more health and wellness centres per person than anywhere else. So, if you’re wondering where to head for your next spa break, Brighton could be the one!

City Spas and Wellness Centres Ranking (Weighted by Population)
Brighton 53 1
Southampton 26 2
Portsmouth 22 3
London 893 4
Manchester 55 5
Cardiff 46 6
Reading 15 7
Liverpool 41 8
Bournemouth 39 9
Leeds 57 10

Source: TripAdvisor


Life Expectancy

Londoners live the longest

Looking after your mental and physical well-being can contribute to a longer life and a happier one. On average, Londoners live longer than people from other UK cities, at around 82 years, reflecting the good quality of life residents of the capital enjoy. Must be all those steps to the tube keeping us active!

City Average Life Expectancy Ranking
London 82.31 1
Bournemouth 82.03 2
Brighton 81.25 3
Northampton 81.04 4
Reading 80.64 5
Plymouth 80.64 6
Bristol 80.59 7
Sheffield 80.47 8
Portsmouth 80.42 9
Cardiff 80.4 10

Source: Office of National Statistics (ONS)


Work Stress

Northampton is the most stress-free city

Online search data shows the cities most and least concerned with their stress levels. Laid-back Northampton is the best UK city to work in when it comes to living a stress-free life, with the fewest internet searches for ‘stress’ per population.

City Work Stress Level Ranking (Weighted by Population)
Northampton 10 1
Bradford 10 2
Bournemouth 10 3
Newcastle 20 4
Sunderland 10 5
Brighton 10 6
Plymouth 10 7
Hull 10 8
Stoke 10 9
Southampton 10 10

Source: Google Ads


THE RESULTS: What is the best city to live and work in for mental health?

City Total Score Weighted Total Score FINAL RANKING
Reading 69 6.9 1
Brighton 65 7.2 2
Southampton 64 8.0 3
Plymouth 65 8.1 4
Northampton 65 8.1 5
Bournemouth 72 9.0 6
Leeds 91 9.1 7
Bristol 95 10.6 8
Sheffield 88 11.0 9
Portsmouth 88 11.0 9
Cardiff 90 11.3 10
London 103 11.4 11
Newcastle 94 11.8 12
Bradford 108 13.5 13
Manchester 139 13.9 14
Sunderland 115 14.4 15
Liverpool 150 15.0 16
Coventry 120 15.0 16
Nottingham 155 15.5 17
Derby 125 15.6 18
Stoke 125 15.6 18
Birmingham 163 16.3 19
Leicester 147 16.3 19
Middlesbrough 144 18.0 20
Hull 163 20.4 21


Reading is the best city for mental health at work in 2022

With the most gyms to offer per person, to high average disposable income rates and the lowest unemployment rate in the UK, there are plenty of reasons why workers in Reading are among the happiest. The city prides itself on being a tech hub, with plenty of jobs alongside good links to opportunities in London, which is just a 30-minute train journey away. As a result, it’s the best UK city to work in for your mental health in 2022!

Our Work.Life Reading branch has all the necessities to make each working day as happy and productive as possible. Offering hot desking packages for professionals on the go and private office spaces for your growing business, our shared workspaces include super-fast WiFi, fully-stocked kitchen areas with unlimited coffee, and all-essential socials, exercise classes and pizza nights for you to network and make new connections.

Happiness at Work.Life’s shared workspaces

At Work.Life, fostering happiness at work is a staple of our values! Our co-founders built our shared workspaces with people’s wellbeing at the forefront: we’re all about creating positive workspaces for collaboration and community — the best environment for happiness, productivity and creativity to thrive!

Check out Work.Life shared workspaces today, or learn more about our B Corp certification and how we put people, community and sustainability first.



Locations were ranked on each metric, with 1 being the best. Rankings for each city were added and weighted to account for instances where data was unavailable and, where relevant, to consider population. These were then ranked from low to high to reveal the best locations across all metrics.

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