<ul><li>The people of Luxembourg should find comfort in their surroundings, too. Mercer Resource Human Consulting ranked the city-state as the safest in the world in 2005. </li></ul>No. 12: Luxembourg Population: 474,500 Life Expectancy: 79 years GDP Per Capita: $55,600 Luxembourg's position proves that sometimes money can buy happiness. It has the highest GDP per capita in the world. And with great access to education, 100% of the population is literate.
<ul><li>Once so poor that its citizens fled by the millions, the Celtic Tiger has enjoyed unprecedented economic growth over the past dozen years. Credit membership in the European Union and a can-do attitude has raised standards of living and even lured former immigrants back home. </li></ul>The excellent education system, open economy, and relaxed pace of life all contribute to the overall happiness of the Irish. No. 11: Ireland Population: 4 million Life Expectancy: 77.7 years GDP Per Capita: $41,000
<ul><li>Canada may sometimes feel overshadowed by its giant neighbor to the south, but a strong sense of national identity and abundant natural beauty help make the sprawling and sparsely populated country one of the world's happiest. </li></ul>No. 10: Canada Population: 33 million Life Expectancy: 80 years GDP Per Capita: $34,000 Canada also punches above its weight economically, with a huge $1.1 trillion GDP and per-capita that ranks among the world's highest. It also has strong health care and a low crime rate.
<ul><li>It helps to have oil. Wealthy and politically stable, Brunei's government plays a major role in its citizens' happiness. The same family has ruled the Southeast Asian nation for more than six centuries, providing free medical services and education. </li></ul>No. 9: Brunei Population: 380,000 Life Expectancy: 75 GDP Per Capita: $23,600 Even university-level education is paid for by the government, which also subsidizes rice and housing. That ensures virtually nonexistent poverty.
<ul><li>Here's a surprise: The small Asian nation of Bhutan ranks eighth in the world, despite relatively low life expectancy, a literacy rate of just 47%, and a very low GDP per capita. </li></ul>No. 8: Bhutan Population: 2.3 million Life Expectancy: 55 years GDP Per Capita: $1,400 Why? Researchers credit an unusually strong sense of national identity. Plus, the country has beautiful scenery and a largely unspoiled culture, thanks to strict governmental limits on tourism, development, and immigration. Pretty counterintuitive, but Bhutan seems to have found a recipe for happiness.
<ul><li>Taxes are high and the winter is trying. But social equality, one of the best welfare systems in Europe, and a great work/life balance keep Swedes smiling. Parents get extensive maternity and paternity leave, and child care is heavily subsidized and available to all. </li></ul>No. 7: Sweden Population: 9 million Life Expectancy: 80.50 years GDP Per Capita: $29,800 Sweden also has unusually transparent government and a strong emphasis on ensuring the freedom and equality of its people.
<ul><li>It's dark and cold in the winter and has some of the highest taxes in Europe. But that doesn't get in the way of Finns' overall happiness. High quality medical care — at little to no cost — contributes to the country's high average life expectancy. The country's free educational system is one of the best, resulting in a 100% literacy rate. </li></ul>No. 6: Finland Population: 5.2 million Life Expectancy: 78.5 years GDP Per Capita: $30,900 Poverty is rare; so too, is extreme wealth. “Finns think a good salary is two cents higher than your neighbor's; it's enough to make you feel wealthy and subsequently, happy,” he says.
<ul><li>Bahamanians know how to enjoy life. “Maybe it's our 'Bahama Mamas,' our sweet sea breeze, our conch salad, and fun loving people,” suggests Kendenique Campbell-Moss, a senior executive at the Bahamas Tourism Ministry. </li></ul>No. 5: Bahamas Population: 303,800 Life Expectancy: 65.6 years GDP Per Capita: $20,200 Although the poverty rate, at 9.3%, is relatively high, the beautiful weather and laid-back lifestyle keep Bahamas' citizens smiling. Campbell-Moss also reckons the fusion of African and European cultures, strong family values, and Christianity contribute to the happy vibe in the Caribbean country.
<ul><li>There's more to Iceland than hot springs and Björk. The tiny country's extensive welfare system plays a big part in its citizens' happiness. The Icelandic government offers a broad </li></ul><ul><li>range of services, such as </li></ul><ul><li>generous housing subsidies, and </li></ul><ul><li>with very little poverty, wealth </li></ul><ul><li>is evenly distributed among </li></ul><ul><li>Icelandic society. Literacy is high </li></ul><ul><li>and unemployment, at 2.1%, is low. </li></ul>No. 4: Iceland Population: 300,000 Life Expectancy: 80 years GDP Per Capita: $35,600
<ul><li>Another Alpine hotbed of happiness, Austria also boasts beautiful scenery and a surprisingly rich cultural scene. Like many of the world's happiest countries, it boasts a strong health-care system, as evidenced by the long average life expectancy of its citizens. </li></ul>No. 3: Austria Population: 8.2 million Life Expectancy: 79 years GDP Per Capita: $32,700 Strict environmental regulations are starting to pay dividends, says Oskar Hinteregger, of the Austrian National Tourist Office. He credits the country's happy mood to its relaxed atmosphere, efficient public transport system, and general cleanliness. Austria does have some poverty, though: nearly 6%
<ul><li>Smack in the middle of Europe and surrounded by picture-postcard scenery, Switzerland ranks second among the world's happiest countries. It has a low crime rate, good infrastructure, and a wealth of outdoor activities, from skiing in the Alps to boating on Lake Geneva. </li></ul>No. 2: Switzerland Population: 7.5 million Life Expectancy: 80.5 years GDP Per Capita: $32,300 Home to the International Red Cross, the World Health Organization, and parts of the U.N., it's not surprising that the Swiss devote a large portion of private and public money to health care — spending an average of $3,445 per person. It's pretty peaceful, too: years of political neutrality have sheltered the Swiss from the conflicts of their neighbors.
<ul><li>With a high standard of living, negligible poverty, and a broad range of public and social services, it's easy to see why Denmark tops the happiness map. There's a high level of education; public schools are top-quality and private ones are affordable. The low population gives the nation a strong sense of identity. And Denmark's physical beauty forms a great backdrop to daily life. The weather is a bit tough, though. </li></ul>No. 1: Denmark Population: 5.5 million Life Expectancy: 77.8 years GDP Per Capita: $34,600