Danes are the happiest people in the world, according to a study of world happiness levels.

Denmark topped the list of 156 countries, ranked by independent experts on a variety of measures.

Factors such as per capita gross domestic product, healthy years of life expectancy, trust and perceived freedom to make life choices were all considered.

  The world's happiest countries
Image: World Happiness Report, 2016

In second place is Switzerland with other Nordic countries ranking strongly: Iceland, Norway and Finland round off the top five.

New World Commonwealth countries also do well with Canada, Australia and New Zealand all in the top 10.

Wealth at what cost?

Many wealthier nations came noticeably further down the chart with the US at 13, Germany at 16 and the United Kingdom at 23.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, special advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and one of the report’s authors, believes this is significant.

“The message for the United States is clear. For a society that just chases money, we are chasing the wrong things. Our social fabric is deteriorating, social trust is deteriorating, faith in government is deteriorating.”

The report said: “When countries single-mindedly pursue individual objectives, such as economic development to the neglect of social and environmental objectives, the results can be highly adverse for human wellbeing, even dangerous for survival.”

Although Denmark ranked in third place in 2015, this is the third time the Scandinavian country has claimed the number one position.

Most improved

Perhaps just as interesting as the countries at the top of the chart are those rapidly improving their score.

Nicaragua made the most progress, ahead of Sierra Leone and Ecuador.

  Countries reporting most improved levels of happiness
Image: World Happiness Report, 2016

Eastern Europeans seem to be finding life more agreeable with Latvia, Slovakia, Uzbekistan and Russia all featuring in the 10 most improved countries.