By Gemma Childe on 16th Apr 2012
Job security, health and family have put Denmark in top place on the United Nation’s first World Happiness Report.
The country, which is followed by Finland, Norway and the Netherlands, received the highest results in the “life evaluation score” for social factors including political freedom and absence of government corruption.
The report, published by Columbia University's Earth Institute, was commissioned for the United Nations Conference on Happiness this week to "review the state of happiness in the world today and show how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness."
It produced "life evaluation scores” on a scale of 0-10. Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands outstripped all other nations with scores of more than 7.5. The UK was ranked 18th, behind Ireland (10th), the United States (11th) and Costa Rica (12th).
At the other end of the spectrum, Benin, Central African Republic, Togo and the Sierra Leone had an average life evaluation score of 3.4.
The rankings also took into account measurements from previous reports on happiness from the Gallup World Poll (GWP), the World Values Survey (WVS), the European Values Survey (EVS) and the European Social Survey (ESS).
The co-editors John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs explained that the report partly aimed to evaluate happiness based on a more comprehensive measurement system that can be used to inform policy-makers.
Previous reports on happiness have linked personal contentment to income, but in recent years economists have argued a nation’s happiness is determined by far more than its Gross National Product.
The report read: "While basic living standards are essential for happiness, after the baseline has been met happiness varies more with the quality of human relationship than with income.
"Policy goals should include high employment and high-quality work; a strong community with high levels of trust and respect, which government can influence through inclusive participatory policies; improved physical and mental health; support of family life; and a decent education for all."