Two recent surveys have put Denmark at the top of the list of happy countries, challenging the stereotype of the melancholy Danes. Summing up the surveys, Businessweek finds the formula for happy citizens to be a combination of a strong economy and strong social programs, countries with "a head and a heart."
The World Values Study, based in Stockholm, Sweden, put Denmark first in its survey, which focused on three key indicators: freedom to choose your own life path, encouragement of gender equality, and tolerance for minorities. The other survey was conducted by the University of Leicester in England, and this one weighed a variety of sources. Countries like America that put economic growth above social cohesion suffered. Denmark's strong social safety nets may require high taxes and an aggressive redistribution of wealth, but they seem to be creating a broad sense of happiness based on security, good schools, and a simple lifestyle built around strong family bonds, conviviality, and riding bikes everywhere. Danes don't expect to get rich, but they do anticipate feeling happy. (Of course all this attention has thrown the country into a tizzy of introspection, as you might expect from Hamlet's heirs.)
The U.S. finished a poor 23rd in the survey. Here are the top ten countries in the Leicester survey: Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Iceland, Bahamas, Finland, Sweden, Bhutan, Brunei, and Canada.