Israel world's 8th happiest country

Scandinavians top list, Africans end it.

July 29, 2010 16:55
2 minute read.
Israelis celebrating Independence Day in Tel Aviv,

Independence Day Crowd 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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Israel is tied with Canada, Switzerland, and Australia as the world's eighth happiest country out of 155 surveyed, according to a Gallup World Poll posted by Forbes Thursday.

Forbes said the richest countries were by and large the happiest. Scandinavian countries dominated the list, with Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands taking all top five spots. African nations took up most of the bottom, with Sierra Leone, Cambodia (not African), Comoros, Buriundi, and Togo ranking as the unhappiest countries on earth.

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Israel far outstripped its neighbors in happiness, with Jordan ranking 52, Lebanon 73, Egypt and Syria 115. The Palestinian Territories were 88 on the list.

The US ranked number 14 on the list, ahead of Britain, 17.

Iran came in at the middle, with 81. War-torn Iraq ranked 110, and Afghanistan 115.

The four-year survey asked thousands of respondents in the 155 countries to give a "life evaluation" score between one and ten, and cataloged their daily feelings to decide what percentage of people in each country were "thriving, struggling, or suffering." The survey was taken between 2005 and 2009.

"Money is an object that many or most people desire, and pursue during the majority of their waking hours," researchers wrote in the report. "It would be surprising if success at this pursuit had no influence whatsoever when people were asked to evaluate their lives."

Although the study showed happiness to be highly correlated with wealth, regional correlation was strong as well, given the unbroken string of Scandinavian countries at the top and the majority of African ones at the bottom.

"The Scandinavian countries do really well," said Jim Harter, a chief scientist at Gallup. "One theory why is that they have their basic needs taken care of to a higher degree than other countries. When we look at all the data, those basic needs explain the relationship between income and well-being."

According to the Forbes table, the happiest country in the Americas was Costa Rica, which came in at number six worldwide, according to the report. "Costa Rica ranks really high on social and psychological prosperity," said Harter. "It's probably things systemic to the society that make people over time develop better relationships, and put more value on relationships. Daily positive feelings rank really high there."

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