The war-torn Central African Republic performed worst in the World Happiness Report 2017, published today.
Scandinavia retained a firm grip on the top of the table, with Norway displacing Denmark for the top spot and Iceland in third.
The report found that the happier countries have a “healthy balance” of prosperity, trust in society, low inequality and confidence in government.
World's happiest countries - top 20
8. New Zealand
12. Costa Rica
14. United States
19. United Kingdom
There were 18 countries deemed “happier” than the UK, including the US, Germany, Ireland and Israel. However, Britain has improved its ranking by four places since 2016.
The fifth edition of the annual report analysed data gathered from surveys of thousands of people in more than 150 countries. Participants were asked to simply grade their lives on a scale of zero to 10.
Report author Jeffrey Sachs, who is the director of the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said the US had dropped in the rankings because of inequality, distrust and corruption.
He said: “The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach."
He added: “America’s crisis is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis.”
The report states that “high-trust communities and societies are happier places to live, even after allowing for the effects of higher incomes and better health.”
It concludes: “There is every hope… that simply changing the focus from the material to the social foundations of happiness will improve the rate at which lives can be sustainably improved for all, throughout the world and across generations.”