The happiest children in Europe are in the Netherlands and Scandinavia but Ireland ranks ninth in the survey of European states.

A league table of young people's wellbeing places the Netherlands top of 29 European states, followed by Sweden and Norway, while Malta ranks last.

The UK ranks only 24th in the survey.

The table, focusing on youngsters aged up to 19, was compiled by researchers at York University in northern England for the Child Poverty Action Group using data mainly from 2006.

The researchers assessed the countries using 43 separate criteria, ranging from infant mortality and obesity to factors such as poverty and housing.

Germany was eighth, France was 15th and the UK was 24th ranked only above Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Malta.

The Netherlands scored high in all categories, while the Scandinavians were praised for having a low level of child deaths caused by accidents.

Scandinavian children also indulge in less ‘risky behaviour, which the researchers categorised as early sexual intercourse, smoking and drinking, than their European counterparts.

Norway was top in the provision of housing and the ‘quality of neighbourhoods’.

CPAG said the low ranking of the UK, despite its position among the world's leading economies, was ‘particularly influenced by the high number of children living in families where no parent works’.

CPAG chief executive Kate Green said: ‘The report shows a clear link between high levels of child wellbeing and low levels of child poverty.

‘If we fail to protect families during the downturn, progress on child wellbeing could go into reverse’, she said.

Overall ranking:

2. Sweden
3. Norway
4. Iceland
5. Finland
6. Denmark
7. Slovenia
8. Germany
9. Ireland
10. Luxembourg
11. Austria
12. Cyprus
13. Spain
14. Belgium
15. France
16. Czech Republic
17. Slovakia
18. Estonia
19. Italy
20. Poland
21. Portugal
22. Hungary
23. Greece
24. United Kingdom
25. Romania
26. Bulgaria
27. Latvia
28. Lithuania
29. Malta

Read the survey by the UK's Child Poverty Action Group