Iceland has held on to its title as the world’s most peaceful country. But overall the prospects for world peace are pretty gloomy.

The Global Peace Index (GPI), produced each year by the Institute of Economics, assesses levels of peace in 163 independent states and territories, taking into account factors such as perception of crime, terrorism, political security and safety.

This is the sixth consecutive year that Iceland has claimed the title. In the 2016 ranking the Nordic island nation is followed by Denmark, Austria, New Zealand and Portugal.

 The most peaceful countries in the world

Image: Global Peace Index

Europe remains the most peaceful continent, with six of the top seven countries.

North America, Australia, South America and the Asia-Pacific region were also stable, with results broadly consistent with their 2015 ranking.

What’s happening to global peace?

Elsewhere though the picture is not so rosy, with the index reflecting a less peaceful world overall than the previous year.

Global Peace Index overall score change by region 2015-2016

The gap between the most and least peaceful countries is steadily widening, according to the index, bringing down global levels of peacefulness.

The 2016 report showed 81 countries have become more peaceful, while the situation in 79 countries has deteriorated. These changes have led to what the report says are greater “peace inequalities” between countries.

Global Peace Index overall score trend and year-on-year percentage change 2008-2016

Image: IEP

The Middle East and North Africa saw the greatest decline in levels of peace, with Syria once again named the world’s least peaceful country.

Numerous regional conflicts and the growing threat of terrorism mean that despite the rest of the world remaining relatively peaceful, the Middle East and North Africa region is lowering global levels of peace.