Happiest places tend to have the highest suicide rates, a new study suggests.
The research found that a range of nations, including Canada, the US, Iceland, Ireland and Switzerland, display relatively high happiness levels and yet also have high suicide rates.
Researchers from UK's University of Warwick, Hamilton College in New York and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco collaborated for the study.
In the US itself, the study found states with people who are generally more satisfied with their lives tended to have higher suicide rates than those with lower average levels of life satisfaction.
For example, the raw data showed that Utah is ranked first in life-satisfaction, but has the 9th highest suicide rate. Meanwhile, New York was ranked 45th in life satisfaction, yet had the lowest suicide rate in the country.
Hawaii then ranks second in adjusted average life satisfaction but has the fifth highest suicide rate in the country. Else in New Jersey, which is ranked near the bottom in adjusted life satisfaction (47th), had one of the lowest adjusted suicide risks (coincidentally, also the 47th highest rate).
The researchers believe the key explanation that may explain this counterintuitive link between happiness and suicide rates draws on ideas about the way that human beings rely on relative comparisons between each other.
"Discontented people in a happy place may feel particularly harshly treated by life. Those dark contrasts may in turn increase the risk of suicide. If humans are subject to mood swings, the lows of life may thus be most tolerable in an environment in which other humans are unhappy," said Professor Andrew Oswald, University of Warwick researcher.
The findings will be published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.