The happiest people in the world live in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, a new UN-backed study suggests.
According to the 2013 World Happiness Report released September 9 by Columbia University's Earth Institute
, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Sweden are the world's happiest countries, according to the survey of 156 countries.
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The U.S. came in in 17th place, lagging behind Canada (6th), Australia (10th), Israel (11th), the United Arab Emirates (14th), and Mexico (16th). The UK ranks as the 22nd happiest country, while Brazil and France scored 24th and 25th place, respectively. Japan ranked 43rd, while China ranked 93rd.
The survey was conducted between 2010 and 2012 and follows the Earth Institute's first rankings released last year.
Researchers looked at peoples' current mood and their overall life satisfaction, and found that six factors helped shape well-being: per capita GDP, life expectancy, friends, generosity, freedom from political corruption, and the opportunity to make life choices.
Overall the report said that while "the world has become a slightly happier and more generous place over the past five years," economic and political upheavals have resulted in reduced levels of happiness for some nations, namely countries hit by economic hardships (Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain) as well as political turmoil, such as Egypt. Countries with the lowest levels of happiness were Benin (155th) and Togo (156th).