London - The key to happiness is having Danish DNA, scientists have claimed.

Researchers who looked at data from 131 countries found that the closer a nation was genetically to the Danes, the happier its people were.

Denmark regularly tops world happiness scales, but researchers found that Danish birth was also associated with a specific version of a gene that influences brain levels of the mood chemical serotonin.

The University of Warwick study’s co-author, Professor Andrew Oswald, said: “The genetic make-up of Britons is quite similar to that of the Danes. There is significant Danish DNA in Britain’s genetic make-up because of the Viking invasions from the late 8th century onwards.

“But many Anglo-Saxons – who settled in earlier centuries after crossing from what is now Germany – were also Danish in origin.”

Denmark has topped the European Commission’s ‘Eurobarometer’ table of citizen well-being and happiness every year since 1973.

And last year’s World Happiness Report from the United Nations also ranked Denmark the happiest nation on Earth.

It was followed by four other northern European countries: Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.

The UK was ranked 22nd, while the world’s most miserable country was said to be Togo in West Africa.

Danish birth was also associated with specific versions of a gene that influences brain levels of the chemical serotonin. A deficiency is strongly linked to depression. Compared with other countries, Danes were less likely to possess a short version of the gene that is linked to low levels of life satisfaction.

Economist Dr Eugenio Proto, from the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy, said: “Research suggested that the long and short variants of this gene are correlated with different probabilities of clinical depression, although this link is still highly debated. The short version has been associated with higher scores on neuroticism and lower life satisfaction.

“Intriguingly, among the nations included in the study, it is Denmark and the Netherlands that appear to have the lowest percentage of people with this short version.”

The research began with a study of the happiness of Americans in relation to where their ancestors hailed from. Prof Oswald said: “The evidence revealed that there is an unexplained positive correlation between the happiness today of some nations and the happiness of Americans whose ancestors came from these nations.

“It seems there are reasons to believe that genetic patterns may help researchers to understand international well-being levels.” - Daily Mail