The annual ranking by the United Nations placed Nordic nations in the top four slots, with Finland this year overtaking Norway as the happiest nation on earth.
The 170-page report did not go into detail on why the French are feeling happier than before, but it is part of an emerging trend that shows that the Gallic nation may finally be shaking off its reputation for gloom.
Numerous studies in the past have suggested that the French are a morose bunch who suffer from “collective depression”. But in fact, one in two of them consider themselves to be “happy”, according to an opinion poll published last month.
The BVA-Gallup poll showed a small upwards shift of just one point on 2016, but it marked the first time since 2013 that 50 percent of French people consider themselves to be “happy”.
The survey also showed that French are also more confident in the future, with 26 percent of respondents believing that 2018 would be better than 2017, which saw the election of President Emmanuel Macron and numerous signs that the country’s economy was finally getting back into gear.
That new-found enthusiasm for life tallies with France’s upward move on the UN’s World Happiness rankings.
But the country still ranks far behind other developed nations where economic and social conditions are broadly similar.
Its 23rd place position was just behind Malta, while United States came in at 18, the UK at 19, and the United Arab Emirates at 20.
The World Happiness Report 2018 looked at six factors: GDP per capita, social support (eg the possibility of being able to count on someone in hard times), life expectancy at birth, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption.
Countries scoring far higher than France included Switzerland (in 5th place), the Netherlands (6), Canada (7), New Zealand (8), Israel (11), and Costa Rica (13).
Burundi in east Africa was ranked as the unhappiest nation in the world, and there were five other countries – Rwanda, Yemen, Tanzania, South Sudan and the Central African Republic – which showed happiness levels below that of war-torn Syria, which was in 150th position.