By the numbers - Happiness

27th September 2013 at 01:00

The World Happiness Report recently named Denmark as the happiest of 156 countries, using a scale that measured factors such as economic strength, personal freedom and social support.

The UK came 22nd in the study, above France at 25th but below the US in 17th place. The least happy country was Togo, according to the United Nations-commissioned report.

The researchers discovered a link between the number of years spent in school and how satisfied people were with their lives. But they found it difficult to ascertain the effect of a particular level of education on people's well-being, although the indirect results of education - such as a higher level of income - were often significant.

Education was also relevant to well-being in relation to the issue of whether to teach "happiness" in schools. "This is an end in itself, but it also contributes to a better society where people are more sympathetic, compassionate and willing to help each other," the report says.

A number of schools have taken an interest in teaching well-being, the most high-profile in England being Wellington College, led by Anthony Seldon.

Richard Layard, emeritus professor of economics at the London School of Economics and one of the co-editors of the World Happiness Report, has also led a three-year project studying ways to teach 11-year-olds to become more psychologically resilient. The lessons appeared to have only a short-term impact on the student body as a whole, but were much more effective for lower-attaining students and those who started school in poorer psychological health.

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