Seven of the 10 happiest countries on Earth have state welfare systems, including free education, a study from Leicester university found.
Academics listed five main criteria for being happy - health, wealth, education, a sense of identity and the aesthetic quality of the landscape.
Denmark emerged as the happiest place in the world, followed by Switzerland and Austria. The UK was placed 41st out of 178 countries, and Ireland was 11th. Bigger countries such as Russia and China scored poorly as their physical size meant people felt no attachment to a national identity. The three least happy countries were the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Burundi, all torn by humanitarian crises and civil war.