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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Britons 'are getting unhappier'
Comedy character Victor Meldrew
'Grumpy' Victor Meldrew was one of TV's most popular characters
Britons are getting unhappier, with falling trust in institutions, such as the police and government, to blame, a Europe-wide study has suggested.

The UK was ranked only the ninth happiest country out of 15 EU nations and finished tenth in a parallel survey of life satisfaction levels.

Denmark, Finland and the Irish were the happiest people while Italy finished bottom just behind Portugal and Greece.

The 2004 University of Cambridge study analysed 20,000 responses.

While Britain finished lower down the league, it still managed to beat France and Germany in both tables.

Dr Luisa Corrado, who lead the research said: "The survey shows that trust in society is very, very important. The countries that scored highest for happiness also reported the highest levels of trust in their governments, laws and each other.

"The UK shows falling trust in government, the police and other institutions and higher social distrust, which might explain why the level of happiness among British people has also fallen."

HAPPINESS TOP FIVE
1.Denmark
2.Finland
3.Ireland
4.Sweden
5.Netherlands
Source: University of Cambridge, Faculty of Economics

Martin Bell, the former independent MP elected on an anti-sleaze ticket, said: "I think there have been issues happening in the last ten years that have really shocked people."

Mr Bell pointed to the alleged abuse of the honours system as one possible reason for the claimed reduction in trust.

He added: "There is no more serious decision a government takes than going to war, and people have to have trust in the people who make these kinds of decisions, and that is where we are failing, it seems to me."

Women 'happier'

In Scotland, Wales, northern England and south-western England the average score out of 10 for happiness fell to 7.5 in 2004 compared with almost eight in 2002.

However happiness in East Anglia, London and the East Midlands remained at an average of eight.

The results from this study were then compared to another report into what makes people happy in society and this produced the link to trust in institutions.

UNHAPPINESS TOP FIVE
1.Italy
2.Portugal
3.Greece
4.Germany
5. France
Source: University of Cambridge, Faculty of Economics

Other trends noted were that women appeared to be happier than men while the study claimed that where trust in the government was lacking, in countries such as Italy, even the well-off tended to be unhappy.

Dr Corrado added that people in the EU were relatively happy but warned that the report suggested government had to focus on more than just improving wealth.

Denmark also topped the life satisfaction table, with Finland, Sweden and Luxembourg and Ireland making up the top five.




SEE ALSO
The politics of happiness
22 May 06 |  Happiness Formula
Britain's happiness in decline
02 May 06 |  Happiness Formula
Voter apathy
10 Dec 06 |  Politics Show

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