Source: Forbes Magazine

According to Forbes Magazine, happiness is more than money, it means also healthy, free from pain and being able to take care of yourself, having a good time with friends and family, being able to speak what's on your mind without fear and to worship God of your choosing and to feel safe and secure in your own home, having an opportunity to get education.

With this, the magazine released the top ten happiest countries in the world based on the research and survey conducted by a London-based nonpartisan think tank, Legatum Institute.

The Institute's 2010 Prosperity Index about the happiest countries listed 110 countries. How the institute came up with the listing? According to Forbes, each country is ranked on 89 variables sorted into eight subsections:  economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital. 

Here are the Happiest Countries in the World based on the 2010 Prosperity Index of Legatum Institute
Norwegian Fjords, Norway. 
The most prosperous country in the world, having the world's highest per capita GDP of $53,000 a year and its citizens have the second-highest level of satisfaction with their standards of living.

1. Norway - Excellent health care program by the government, highest per capita, lots of oil and gas reserves, 94% of Norwegians are contented and satisfied with their physical environment.

2. Denmark - consistently included in almost all studies conducted as one of the world's happiest countries, Denmark has the highest standard living in the world with a lower start up cost in business, excellent education and unrestricted civil liberties. 

3. Finland - Highest redistribution of wealth, strong economy and civil liberties plus excellent opportunities in education, the country is also one of the few countries in the world which ranks high in clean environment and water.

4. Australia - Low start up cost in business, strong economy and personal freedom, Australia is one of the few countries in the world which offers a good opportunity to start a business. 

5. New Zealand - Ranks first in civil liberties and opportunity in education, 94% of New Zealanders say they are contented and satisfied with their physical environment.

6. Sweden - A place where good business opportunity ranks high, in fact Sweden ranks second having the best entrepreneurship opportunities among 110 countries. Civil liberties are well protected also.

7. Canada - Social capital is high and corruption very low with most Canadians say they have plenty of personal freedom.

8. Switzerland - With less than corruption issues, high opportunity in education, lots of business and employment opportunities made Swiss trustful and happy with their government.

9. The Netherlands - Personal freedom is high in the Netherlands with 88% satisfied that they are free to choose to do what they want for their lives.

10. United States - According to the research, nearly 90% of Americans are satisfied with their health. The U.S is also home to most billionaires in the world. 


But there was another poll survey conducted by an organization called The Gallup which released a different listing of the Happiest Countries in the World. According to Forbes.com researchers at the Gallup World Poll conducted the survey measuring two types of well-being.

While the Legatum Institute gave weight on prosperity measurement (economic and political stability, social services, education and entrepreneurship, etc.), the Gallup World Poll focused more on the respondents' overall satisfaction of their lives (life evaluation, experiences). In this manner, the respondents gave more weight on what they felt towards life, the good times and the level of prosperity they have experienced.

The Gallup organization is a management consulting company based in Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Top 10 Happiest Countries in the World according to the Gallup Poll:
Denmark is the happiest country in the world in the Gallup World Poll survey. One resident says, health care services in Denmark is excellent
1. Denmark
2. Finland
3. Norway
4. Sweden
5. The Netherlands
6. New Zealand
7. Costa Rica
8. Canada
9. Israel
10. Switzerland


World Database of Happiness released a different result of listing too.The listing is based on the research conducted by Ruut Veenhoven of the Erasmus University Rotterdam which take into consideration the life expectancy and the overall happiness and satisfaction of the respondents in their country.

Top 10 Happiest Countries according to the World Database of Happiness

(Source: Reuters.com)
Costa Rica is the happiest country in the World Database of Happiness survey

1. Costa Rica
2. Denmark
3. Iceland
4. Switzerland
5. Canada
6. Norway
7. Mexico
8. Finlad
9. Sweden
10. Panama

Though the listing slightly differs, the characteristics and variables used in the poll are almost the same and analyzing from the list, what makes citizen happy in their respective countries are the following (in no particular order):

1. Access on social services (healthcare being the primary social service)
2. Satisfying basic needs
3. A good balance of leisure and work time
4. Strong economy
5. Political stability
6. Low start-up cost of business
7. Excellent opportunity in entrepreneurship and education
8. Trusted governance
9. Comfortable physical environment
10. Peace and order
11. Equal opportunity in employment

It is clear in these three different listing that residents in Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland) seem to be the happiest people in the world. According to Jim Harter, the chief scientist at the Gallup Poll, "Scandinavian countries do very well, they have their basic needs taken care of".

However there was a different research conducted by HAPPY PLANET INDEX in 2009 which revealed a  different listing of countries with the happiest people. HPI, introduced by the New Economic Foundation (founded by the leaders of The Other Economic Summit in 1986) in 2006 is an index of human well-being and environmental impact which was designed to challenge well-established indices of countries' development (Gross Domestic Product and Human Development Index). HPI measures environmental  efficiency of supporting well-being in a particular country, it drew more weight on the respondents' perception on life expectancy, life satisfaction and ecological footprint per capita.

HPI's data on life satisfaction and life expectancy are mostly taken from the World Values Survey and World Database of Happiness. Here are the Top 15 countries of HPI in 2009.

1. Costa Rica
2. Dominican Republic
3. Jamaica
4. Guatemala
5. Vietnam
6. Columbia
7. Cuba
8. El Salvador
9. Brazil
10. Honduras
11. Nicaragua
12. Egypt
13. Saudi Arabia
14. Philippines
15. Argentina

Surprisingly, the countries in the list are mostly belong to the Third World like the Philippines and the Latin American nations. The HPI listing is a little bit intriguing since some of these countries have political and economic stability issues, but HPI maintained that the research measured the people's happiness based on life satisfaction, environmental impact and the general perception of well-being. 

Prominently absent in the listing are the Scandinavian countries and the British Dominions (New Zealand, Australia and Canada) which often topped the surveys on the happiest countries. However, HPI doesn't measure the prosperity areas and wealth considerations of each nation which the rich countries have the advantages, but more on personal life satisfaction of the people and their environment. It is based on the fact that the real meaning of happiness of a person cannot be measured by money alone, it doesn't depend on the satisfaction of wealth and affluence.

Surveys have different measurement and points of consideration. The country's absence in the list doesn't mean its citizens are the most miserable folks in the planet. Happiness alone is a personal issue, it is an attitude of the mind.

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