Canada ranked second-happiest country in the world

If you're not smiling, you are amongst a minority of Canadians.

That's because a well-being survey conducted by Gallup finds Canada to be the second-happiest country in the world. (See entire list)

"This is no great surprise," says University of British Columbia professor of economics John Helliwell who specializes in well-being. "Canada tends to have more of the things that make life better ... some way of getting educated and staying healthy."

He says having someone to rely on in a time of trouble is also important because it means one has a bigger circle of friends. In Canada, 95 per cent of people have at least one person who can help, whereas that number is below 50 per cent in countries lower on the list.

According to the survey, 69 per cent of Canadians rated their lives as "thriving." Sweden ties with Canada for second place, while Denmark tops the list with 72 per cent of people liking life.

"We'll never beat Denmark, they are just a little smarter at running things," says Helliwell, who notes the likelihood of having a lost wallet returned is higher there. "How free you are to make life decisions is higher in Denmark and high in Canada as well."

Respondents were asked to rate their lives at the moment and their expectations for the next five years on a scale from one to 10. If respondents rated their lives as seven or better and their expectations as eight or better they were considered to have "thriving" well-being.

If people gave lower numbers, they were considered to be "struggling" or "suffering." Respondents who were "suffering" rated their current life situation, and expectations for the next five years, as four and below. These respondents were more likely to lack food, shelter and access to health care. The survey was based on the Cantril Scale.

Thirty per cent of Canadians ranked their lives as "struggling" and two per cent were "suffering."

Helliwell even separates Canada into regions, saying that despite having higher unemployment Atlantic Canada is actually pulling up their numbers. He says this is because those in the Maritimes have stronger feelings of community and interact more with neighbours.

Given the correlation between well-being and GDP, it's no surprise the top of the list is dominated by developed, wealthy nations.

Despite being the richest country in the world, the United States finished 12th on the list, with 59 per cent of respondents "thriving." Chad finished at the bottom with only one per cent "thriving."

Overall, global well-being didn't change from last year, remaining at 21 per cent.

Results are based on face-to-face and phone interviews with about 1,000 adults in 124 countries.

(CBC photo)