We are one of the world's happiest countries - though a bit less so than two years ago

Ireland is one of the world's happiest countries - but is slightly less happy than it was a year ago.

The seventh World Happiness Report, compiled by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranked 156 countries in terms of happiness, with Ireland placing 16th on the list, down from 14th in the last report.

For the second year running it found that the happiest country is Finland.

Nordic countries performed particularly well, with Denmark, Norway and Iceland finishing 2nd, 3rd and 4th, while Sweden finished 7th.

The Netherlands (5th), Switzerland (6th) and Austria (10th) also performed well in the study, while New Zealand (8th) and Canada (9th) are the only non-European nations inside the top 10.

Ireland, in 16th, lags just behind the United Kingdom in 15th, but is ahead of Germany (17th), Belgium (18th), the United States (19th) and the Czech Republic (20th).

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, Afghanistan, Tanzania and Rwanda.

The report notes that there is 'a large gap' between the top and bottom countries.

Separate data on GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and corruption is also included in the report but this does not contribute to the overall happiness ranking.

Ireland ranks 6th for social support and GDP, and 20th for healthy life expectancy. The report also places Ireland 33rd for freedom to make choices and 10th for freedom from corruption. Ireland is 9th in generosity, with 69.9% of respondents claiming to have donated to charity in the past month, and 38.3% claiming to have volunteered in the same period.

The study also contains some good news for Fine Gael. It states that happier people are both more likely to vote and to vote for incumbents when they do so.

While unhappier people seem to hold more populist and authoritarian attitudes, the report adds that it is "difficult to adequately explain" the rise in populist electoral success and whether it is related to happiness levels.

It also looks at the role of digital media in happiness and suggests that time spent interacting with electronic devices "may have displaced time once spent on more beneficial activities, contributing to increased anxiety and declines in happiness".

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