The results are in, America, and they're not good: Out of 22 countries, U.S. parents are the unhappiest.

And researchers now believe they know what's causing it.

The Council of Contemporary Families, housed out of the University of Texas at Austin, wanted to look further at a previous study showing how American couples with kids are significantly unhappier than childless couples. They wanted to know why that is, and whether or not this was a global issue or simply a national one.

In other words, is it the act of parenting that makes someone unhappy, or the environment the person is parenting in?

The only way to find out was to study the happiness levels of parents around the world. The council looked at data in 22 English-speaking and European nations to find out if families with kids in those countries are as unhappy as American families.

As it turns out, they're not. The biggest discrepancy in happiness levels between parents and nonparents was found in the United States.

No other country had such a noticeable emotional gap between those with children and those without. In fact, in some countries like Hungary and Norway, parents rate themselves higher on the happiness scale than their childless counterparts.

How could that be? Researchers dug through the data, trying to uncover a definitive reason for these findings.

First, they looked at accidental pregnancies and large family size, two factors that could theoretically impact a family's contentment. However, these factors were found to be "relatively unimportant" when it came to overall happiness.

So the team turned its focus to issues affecting time, energy and money. They examined the various government policies in place to support families: The length of time and financial generosity of parental leave, the cost of childcare in comparison to median wages, the amount of vacation days and sick days a family has at their disposal, and overall work schedule flexibility.

"What we found was astonishing," write authors Jennifer Glass, Robin Simon and Matthew Andersson in their briefing paper on the findings. "The negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine paid work with family obligations. And this was true for both mothers and fathers. Countries with better family policy "packages" had no happiness gap between parents and non-parents."

In other words, the weak government policies in place to support U.S. families have everything to do with the lack of happiness Americans experience once they have children.

America offers astonishingly little in way of parental leave, subsidized childcare, or work/life balance compared to other countries. As a result, Americans are more stressed out, overworked and under-supported by the system they pay into. Because of this, they face a greater burden bringing up their children, and this is reflected in how unhappy they are.

Despite the previous study's findings, it seems having children in itself does not equal a life of misery compared to choosing a childless lifestyle. Rather, families can thrive in the right conditions, and suffer a great deal of discontent in the wrong ones.

With these new discoveries, perhaps the American government will do more to support those having kids. The study's authors insist their data shows implementing more family-friendly policies benefits everyone, including those without children. "The policies that helped parents the most were policies that also improved the happiness of everyone in that country, whether they had children or not," they write.

Let's hope policy makers are listening.