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The Dispute of Happiness

Scott Vogel

You may not believe it from a perusal of recent headlines but the world is apparently becoming a happier place. Wait, I want to get this headline right:

"Happiness is Rising Around the World."

There you are. That's the title of a study released yesterday by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research, which, after making the above rather remarkable claim, goes on to rank 97 nations from happiest to unhappiest.

Topping the list in yet another survey of this type? That perennial Scandinavian smiley-face, Denmark. The unhappiest place, unsurprisingly, was Mugabe central: Zimbabwe.

I hadn't heard about it before, but this is the 26th installment of the World Values Survey, which annually polls 350,000 people worldwide, asking them such questions as "Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, not at all happy?"

Some of the other happiest countries are Iceland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada. (For the complete happiness chart, click here [PDF].) Ronald Inglehart, the survey's director, traces these nations' mirth, in part, to their social tolerance. "The results clearly show that the happiest societies are those that allow people the freedom to choose how to live their lives," he said, as quoted in the study's press release. Of course, most of the happiest countries are also the richest, although the richest of them all -- that would be the United States - ranks only 16th in the study.

If nothing else, the report is an amusing conversation starter, and as such, I can't wait to hear what you, the well-traveled readers of our blog, think of its results. Based on your own excursions, what country do you think has the happiest people? And is it really possible that the world's happiness is increasing?

By Scott Vogel |  July 2, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Scott Vogel
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Have you read Geography of Bliss? Its funny travelogue about the happiness of certain countries.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 2, 2008 11:04 AM

where's Bhutan on this list? Don't they have the highest Gross National Happiness?

Posted by: m | July 2, 2008 12:02 PM

they call Thailand the "Land of Smiles"

Posted by: t | July 2, 2008 1:02 PM

Canada. I've never been treated with such courtesy and so many smiles. These habits do not seem to be limited to those dealing with tourists, but are shared with the general population as well.

Posted by: babsy1 | July 3, 2008 12:03 PM

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