Someone's lent me Richard Layards book 'Happiness', which is fascinating. He's a statistician and economist, and identifies the major factors in happiness across different countries as:
- divorce rate
- unemployment rate
- level of trust
- membership in non-religious organisations
- quality of government
- fraction believing in God. (p71)
and goes on to say: “the previous table reports one of the most robust findings of happiness research: that people who believe in God are happier. At the individual level one cannot be sure whether belief causes happiness or happiness causes belief. But since the relation also exists at the national level, we can be sure that to some extent belief causes happiness” (p72)
There's a lot in the book about all the other factors, and Layard has also authored this paper on the web, which has various bits of the research in. If you skip to page 27, there's a strongly argued report on the levels of mental illness/depression in the UK, and how we should put many more resources into supporting people who suffer with this. Well worth a look.
Some of the book can be seen in lecture form here.