msnbc.com
updated 11/19/2004 10:28:35 AM ET 2004-11-19T15:28:35

Ireland is the best country to live in with Switzerland in second spot, according to a sweeping study of 111 nations aimed at comparing happiness around the world.

The survey, produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit and released on Wednesday, showed the quality of life in Ireland well ahead of the United States, which was ranked 13th, and  neighboring Britain, which came in at 29th place.

Assuming that wealth is not a finite measure of human satisfaction, the survey is based on complex equations that give precedence to matters of health, well-being, political stability and security. Climate, job security, political freedom, gender equality, and “freedom, family, and community life” are also taken into account.

On a scale of one to 10, Ireland achieved 8.33 points, with Switzerland coming in at 8.07.

While the United States had the second-highest GDP after tiny Luxembourg, relatively small European countries, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, and Spain, placed higher, all appearing within the top 10.

Meantime, larger European Union members France and Germany, took 25th and 26th places respectively.

Social cohesion
The United Kingdom ranked the lowest out of the EU members, primarily due to the deterioration of traditional social and family values.

Ireland not only rated high on social cohesion, but beat the United Kingdom on GDP per person. Average yearly income is now $36,790 in Ireland, versus $31,150 in Britain. For a country that was losing much of its population right up to the early 1990s as emigrants searched for work abroad, the lifestyle victory shows how far Ireland has come since joining the European Union.

"Ireland wins because it successfully combines the most desirable elements of the new (the fourth highest gross domestic product per head in the world in 2005, low unemployment, political liberties) with the preservation of certain cozy elements of the old, such as stable family and community life,” the Economist survey revealed.

In the second-division, South Korea ranked just below the United Kingdom, at 30th place. And politically and economically insecure Zimbabwe came in last with in 3.89 points.

The survey, which will be published in “The World in 2005,” has been conducted annually for 17 years.

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