Denmark: The Happiest Country

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – News of discontent can be found everywhere from Congress to the streets of the Middle East and even inside your neighbors’ foreclosed homes, so it’s no surprise that people around the world didn’t really get any happier last year, as a recent Gallup poll shows.

The polling organization surveyed people in more than 124 countries for its annual well-being survey and found that there was little difference between 2009 and 2010 of those who rank themselves as “thriving.” The median well-being for all countries was 21% of total population that considers itself as thriving, equal to 2009’s number.

The survey is based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring scale, in which participants are asked to rate their lives from zero to 10 on how content they feel currently and how they expect to feel in five years. Those who rank themselves higher on the scale are considered “thriving” while those who put themselves in the medium and lower end of the spectrum are considered “struggling” or “suffering.”

Scandinavian countries seem to have the best outlook, with Denmark snagging the spot as the happiest country in the world, with 72% of its people considering themselves thriving, according to the survey. Sweden and Canada follow in a two-way tie for second place with 69%. Australia is next in line with 65% considering themselves thriving.

The countries leading the way in well-being tend to be affluent, developed nations in Europe and the Americas, although there is plenty of variation within regions. Bulgaria only has 9% of its population who consider themselves thriving, and in the Americas, where Canada tops the continent, Haiti has a low 2% of thriving people.

On the other end of the well-being spectrum are mainly Sub-Saharan African countries, none of which report more than 19% as thriving. Gallup says that this is a reflection of the region’s development challenges. Many economists and mental health physicians argue that the results underscore the correlation between well-being and gross domestic products, the Gallup poll says.

However, outliers exist: Venezuela and Panama, as well as Israel, rank higher than the U.S. in terms of well-being. The U.S. falls in the middle with only 59% of its citizens saying that they are thriving.

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