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Denmark 'happiest' country in the world

  • Story Highlights
  • Group's survey factors in economic growth, democracy, social tolerance
  • Top 10 include seven European nations, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Canada
  • U.S. ranked No. 16; Zimbabwe, Moldova, Armenia ranked at bottom
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Denmark is the world's most content nation, according to a new study on global wellbeing, but the good news is, despite the credit crunch and rising fuel and food prices, all of us are getting happier.

Researchers at the University of Michigan said Denmark's prosperity, stability and democratic government placed the country at the top of the rankings, with Colombia, Canada, Puerto Rico and Iceland all in the top 10.

The United States -- the world's richest nation -- ranked 16th among 97 countries, while Britain was placed 21st.

Zimbabwe, with its soaring inflation and continuing political crisis, unsurprisingly ranked 97th.

TOP 10 HAPPIEST COUNTRIES

Denmark , Puerto Rico, Colombia, Iceland, N. Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, Austria

"I strongly suspect there is a strong correlation between peace and happiness," said Ronald Inglehart, a political scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research.

"There is also a correlation between democracy and peace. Democracies are less likely to fight each other than non-democracies."

Almost all the countries at the bottom of the list struggle with legacies of authoritarian rule and widespread poverty, the survey found.

10 MOST MISERABLE COUNTRIES

Zimbabwe, Armenia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Albania, Iraq, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia

Moldova and Armenia -- with long histories of repressive government -- trumped Iraq for misery, which placed seven in the U.S.-funded research.

Respondents were asked two questions to gauge their happiness:

  • Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, rather happy, not very happy, or not at all happy?
  • All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?
  • Researchers say that compared to a similar survey 20 years ago, everyone is a lot happier.

    "Ultimately, the most important determinant of happiness is the extent to which people have free choice in how to live their lives," Inglehart adds.

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