Nations: It's a Glad, Sad, Mad World

Where you live, as much as how you live, is a key influence on the feel-good factor

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Biswas-Diener cautions that national-happiness rankings are crude, simplistic instruments. They don't reflect, for instance, the unique experiences of certain subcultures or the differing outlooks of country folk and city folk. Still, it's interesting and quite amusing to gaze at the big scoreboard and speculate about what makes Puerto Ricans so giddy and South Koreans so somber, and why the American Dream and the Slovenian Dream, by one measure, inspire identical levels of contentment. The key is to take the rankings lightly. To draw profound morals from global-happiness studies would be as foolish and futile as trying to make a Lithuanian laugh. --Reported by Nadia Mustafa/New York with Elizabeth Coady/ Chicago

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