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Last Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
Denmark 'happiest place on earth'
Image of a mouth smiling
Must be a Dane.....
If it is happiness you are seeking a move to Denmark could be in order, according to the first scientist to make a world map of happiness.

Adrian White, from the UK's University of Leicester, used the responses of 80,000 people worldwide to map out subjective wellbeing.

Denmark came top, followed closely by Switzerland and Austria. The UK ranked 41st. Zimbabwe and Burundi came bottom.

A nation's level of happiness was most closely associated with health levels.

Happiness map
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Prosperity and education were the next strongest determinants of national happiness.

Mr White, who is an analytic social psychologist at the university, said: "When people are asked if they are happy with their lives, people in countries with good healthcare, a higher GDP [gross domestic product] per capita, and access to education were much more likely to report being happy."

He acknowledged that these measures of happiness are not perfect, but said they were the best available and were the measures that politicians were talking of using to measure the relative performance of each country.

He said it would be possible to use these parameters to track changes in happiness, and what events may cause that, such as the effects a war, famine or national success might have on the happiness of people in a particular country.

Measuring happiness

He said: "There is increasing political interest in using measures of happiness as a national indicator in conjunction with measures of wealth.

"A recent BBC survey found that 81% of the population think the government should focus on making us happier rather than wealthier.

"It is worth remembering that the UK is doing relatively well in this area, coming 41st out of 178 nations."

1st - Denmark
2nd - Switzerland
3rd - Austria
4th - Iceland
5th - The Bahamas
23rd - USA
41st - UK
90th - Japan
178th - Burundi

He said he was surprised to see countries in Asia scoring so low, with China 82nd, Japan 90th and India 125th, because these are countries that are thought as having a strong sense of collective identity which other researchers have associated with well-being.

"It is also notable that many of the largest countries in terms of population do quite badly," he said.

He said: "The frustrations of modern life, and the anxieties of the age, seem to be much less significant compared to the health, financial and educational needs in other parts of the world."

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