SpaSeekers - Relaxing Accent

Sound affects many parts of our lives; loud noises can cause us to become startled or overwhelmed, while other noises are much more soothing to listen to. Spas also rely on the use of sound to help create the relaxing atmosphere that we expect - many people will recall having a treatment or sitting in a sauna while calming music plays, whether in the form of whale song, rainfall, chimes or other soothing chords.

In everyday life, some may use white noise or lo-fi beats to help them relax or fall asleep in the evening, while others may prefer listening to the radio, or podcasts, to achieve the same effect. The factors behind attractive accents have often been discussed, which got us wondering - are there some accents that we can also find more relaxing than others?

Working with an expert in Dialectology from the University of Sheffield, we conducted a survey to ask people from across the UK how relaxing they perceive different accents to be, based on a scale of ‘extremely relaxing’ to ‘not relaxing at all’. As a result, we’ve been able to reveal exactly which accents from the UK and overseas we consider to be most calming.

The UK’s Most Relaxing Accents

Looking at regional accents from around the UK, Welsh is the accent that people said they consider to be the most relaxing, with more than a third of people (38%) saying that the accent would chill them out. The Yorkshire accent, characterised by its short ‘a’ sound in words such as ‘bath’ and ‘grass’ and abbreviations of ‘t’ instead of ‘the’ or ‘to’, follows in second place, with 36% finding these Northern tones relaxing. At the other end of the country, the Cornish accent completes the top three, with 36% enjoying the south-western sounds of the accent.

Often considered to be one of the sexiest accents, the Northern Irish accent ranks just outside the top three. Many people may be familiar with the accent thanks to stars of the screen including Jamie Dornan, with the actor’s ‘Sleep Sounds’ recordings having been recently released on Audible, to help listeners drift off to sleep.

Well known for being the dialect of the BBC in years gone by, as well as the Royal Family, the ‘Queen’s English’ or received pronunciation style takes the final spot in the top five soothing accents, with just over a third (34%) finding it relaxing to listen to. However, this is also the accent that ranked the highest when participants were asked which accents they found the ‘easiest’ to understand, going to prove that it’s not necessarily the accents that we find easiest to understand that are the most relaxing to the ear. At the opposite end of the spectrum, despite ranking as the most relaxing accent in the UK, the Welsh accent was actually rated as one of the more difficult to understand.

Interestingly, the Welsh, Yorkshire and Cornish accents also all ranked as the top three most friendly accents in the UK (in third, first and second places respectively), highlighting that often our perception of ‘friendly’ and ‘relaxing’ can be one in the same. Dr Chris Montgomery, Senior Lecturer in Dialectology from the University of Sheffield explains that our perception of accents is usually influenced by our experiences, which may go some way to explaining why these three accents in particular are deemed as ‘most relaxing’: “We know that people associate language with particular people and places, and if we like these places or people we've encountered from them, that is likely to make us have a positive attitude to the accents associated with them. These three accents, that are ranked as most relaxing in the UK, are from places within the UK that people might have travelled to on holiday, and might have fond memories of, which may naturally lead them to be perceived as ‘more relaxing’.”

The distinctive Essex accent ranked the lowest on the relaxation scale, with just 18% saying they found it relaxing, with 41% of respondents going even further to say they find the dialect ‘somewhat unrelaxing’ or ‘not relaxing at all’ - similarly, it also ranked at the lower end of the scale for friendliness.

Ultimately, it’s likely our own accents that we may find the most comfort in overall, with each accent receiving the highest ratings for ‘relaxing’ from those that speak with this accent themselves - so people seeking some relaxation may be best to jump on a call with their nearest and dearest, or pay a visit to their hometown.

Rank Accent % who said it was relaxing
1 Welsh 38%
2 Yorkshire 36%
3 Cornish 36%
4 Northern Irish 35%
5 Received pronunciation/Queen's English 34%
=6 Scottish 34%
=6 West Country 34%
8 Newcastle/Geordie 30%
9 Lancashire 28%
10 Norfolk 27%
11 Manchester 24%
12 Liverpool/Scouse 23%
13 Birmingham 21%
14 Cockney 20%
15 Essex 18%

The USA and Canada’s Most Relaxing Accents

The USA and Canada are also home to many different regional accents, many of which those in the UK will have become accustomed to thanks to TV shows and movies. From some of the more well-known and distinguishable of these accents, the Canadian accent is revealed as the most soothing to listen to by those in the UK, again with almost 2 in 5 (38%) saying they perceive the accent to be relaxing. Though it’s close to the Midwestern American accent, it’s characterised by longer vowel sounds and a softer pronunciation than its US counterparts.

The ‘Southern Drawl’ is the second most relaxing accent from across the pond, with the distinctive laidback speech with its long vowel sounds making it easily recognisable. The Californian accent follows in third (28%), with Latin in fourth (28%) and the unmistakable New York accent in fifth (24%).

Rank Accent % who said it was relaxing
1 Canadian 38%
2 Southern 29%
3 Californian 28%
4 Latino/Latina 28%
5 New York 24%
6 Texan 24%
7 Boston 21%
8 Cajun 17%

The World’s Most Relaxing Accents

Outside of UK and USA regional accents, participants were also asked to rate some other well-known accents from around the world. European accents are often cited as among the ‘sexiest’ in the world, but how do they fare when it comes to being relaxing?

According to our participants, the Italian accent was the most relaxing of all with 41% sharing this sentiment - which also makes the accent the highest rated out of all of those surveyed. The Australian accent (40%) and French accent (38%) follow in second and third, with these two accents also ranking in the same positions when compared to UK and USA/Canadian accents too. Again showing that you don’t exactly need to understand what is being said, to find someone’s voice relaxing.

Rank Accent % who said it was relaxing
1 Italian 41%
2 Australian 40%
3 French 38%
4 New Zealand 37%
5 Spanish 36%
6 Caribbean 35%
7 South African 25%
8 Indian 16%
9 German 15%
10 Chinese 14%

Why Do We Find Some Accents More Relaxing Than Others?

Our research highlights some interesting links between the accents that respondents perceived to be least ‘relaxing’ and the most ‘unfriendly’ or ‘difficult’ to understand, so could there be other factors at play such as the cognitive strain that we experience when trying to correctly hear words spoken with an accent that is not our own?

According to Dr Chris Montgomery, Senior Lecturer in Dialectology from the University of Sheffield:

“There are a number of different factors that can affect how relaxing we perceive an accent to be - using this research as one example, we can begin to see that there are patterns in how ‘relaxing’ an accent is, compared to how ‘friendly’ it is, or how ‘difficult’ it is to understand. Although we can see that there are differences in perceptions, there aren’t any ‘better’ or ‘worse’ accents. As the data shows, the location of the ‘accent raters’ is one of the things that influences this perception the most. In other words, people from Lancashire are likely to have different opinions of accents to those in Cornwall, due to the influence of their local environment.

“We associate people from different places with different characteristics, so the accent associated with each place will also be linked with these characteristics as a result. For example, the ‘received pronunciation’ dialect is often seen as ‘posh’ or associated with those who are highly educated, which can trigger certain emotions and feelings. Likewise, when it comes to accents from the US or around the world, we may perceive these in a different way to those who live there, as our perceptions of them will be entirely different and could be guided by film or other media, or short-term exposure to them when travelling, for example on holiday.

“It’s been great to work with on this simplified study - we know anecdotally that some people find some accents more relaxing to listen to than others, so it’s been great to quantify this. We know that a lot of people enjoy Italian accents, so seeing this dialect emerge as the most relaxing is quite interesting. The fact that it ranks above any regional UK accents is also surprising, as we could easily assume that accents that are more familiar to us may have a more soothing effect.”

All in all, if you’re in need of some me-time, kicking back with an audiobook, podcast or listening to the radio is definitely a good way to relax – but maybe have a think about which accents you find most relaxing to make the experience even more de-stressing. You could even take a look at booking yourself a spa day or spa break to give you some extra uninterrupted listening time too.


Working with Dr Chris Montgomery, Senior Lecturer in Dialectology from the University of Sheffield, a list of 33 accents from around the world (15 UK, 8 US/Canadian, 10 rest of the world) was collated - this list was not exhaustive, and used generalisations in order to present options that respondents would be most likely to recognise.

A survey of 1,502 nationally representative UK respondents was then conducted via Censuswide, with participants asked to rate each accent on a five-point scale from ‘Extremely’ to ‘Not at all’ for the factors of relaxing/unrelaxing, easy/difficult to follow and friendly/unfriendly. The accents were then ranked based on the percentage of people who found the accents relaxing (according to the net percentage of ‘extremely relaxing’ and ‘somewhat relaxing’). All data correct as of April 2024.

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