The United Kingdom is one of the happiest countries in the world and is getting more cheerful, the annual United Nations investigation into contentedness has suggested.
The seventh World Happiness Report ranked the UK in 15th out of 156, one place above Ireland, and a rise of four places on the previous year’s report.
By contrast, Ireland slipped from 14th to 16th, above the likes of Germany (17th), Belgium (18th) and the United States (19th).
The happiest country, according to the report – for the second year running – is Finland, ahead of Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands. New Zealand (8th) and Canada (9th) are the only non-European nations inside the top 10.
The scores are based on individuals’ assessments of their own lives over a two-year period.
The evaluation asks up to 3,000 survey respondents in each country to place the status of their lives on a “ladder” scale ranging from 0 to 10, where 0 means the worst possible life and 10 the best possible life.
The report sees South Sudan replacing Burundi as the least happy country, ahead of the Central African Republic and Afghanistan.
Separate data on GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and corruption is also included in the report, but does not contribute to the overall happiness ranking.
It shows Ireland (6th) ranks above the UK (9th) for social support, GDP (6th for Ireland compared with 23rd for the UK), and healthy life expectancy (20th compared with 24th).
Ireland also has a higher ranking for perceived freedom to make life choices (33rd) ahead of the UK (63), and freedom from corruption (10th compared with 15th).
But the UK has one of the best generosity rankings (4th) of all countries, ahead of Ireland in 9th. It claimed 72.3% of UK respondents said they had donated money to charity in the past month, compared with 69.9% of Irish people.
The report cites results from a study into political voting and happiness, published in the European Journal of Political Economy in January, which identified those who were dissatisfied with life overall in the UK were around 2.5 percentage points more likely vote to leave the European Union.
The UN report adds, using data from the United Kingdom, that the likelihood of people voting also increases as they become happier, with a one-point increase in life satisfaction associated with a 2% increase in the propensity to vote in an upcoming election.
The report comes a day after Office for National Statistics figures showed record numbers of people are in work, while the UK’s jobless rate has fallen below 4% for the first time since 1975.
Average earnings increased by 3.4% in the year to January, down by 0.1% on the previous month but still outpacing inflation.