Israel No. 8, U.S. 14th among happiest countries

NEW YORK (JTA) – Israel was tied for eighth among the happiest countries in the world, according to a new survey.

In a Gallup World Poll of 155 nations, the Jewish state tied with Canada, Switzerland and Australia.

Forbes, which posted the list Thursday, said the richest countries were by and large the happiest. Scandinavian countries dominated — Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands took the top five spots.

The United States ranked 14th, three spots ahead of Britain, in a survey that asked thousands of respondents to give a "life evaluation" score from 1 to 10. The survey, taken between 2005 and 2009, catalogued their daily feelings to decide what percentage of people in each country were "thriving, struggling or suffering."

African nations fared poorly, with Sierra Leone, Comoros, Burundi and Togo ranking in the bottom five. They were joined by Cambodia as the unhappiest countries on earth.

Israel finished well ahead of its neighbors in happiness, with Jordan ranking 52, Lebanon 73, and Egypt and Syria 115. The Palestinian territories were No. 88.

The happiest country in the Americas was Costa Rica, which came in at No. 6 worldwide.

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.

"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."

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