By Bob Condor

John Lennon would like it. Give peace a chance and you might just be happier than most of the world. That is the message of new survey directed by Ronald Inglehart, a political scientist at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research.

The World Values Survey, conducted regularly by a global network of political scientists and involving 350,000 respondents, named Denmark at the happiest country. Inglehart said the European nation’s happiness derives from democracy, social equity and a “peaceful atmosphere.”

Something tells me the television news is less dreary in Denmark, too.

Not surprisingly, Zimbabwe, the African nation ripped apart by political and social struggles punctuated by violence, graded out as the least happy country. Other countries deemed particularly unhappy include Albania, Ukraine and Georgia.

If you are wondering, the U.S. finished 16th happiest despite being the weathliest.

On the plus side, Inglehart reports that happiness by country and the world overall has increased in 45 of 52 nations in the last three decades.Other countries ranking in the top 10 of happiness: Puerto Rico, Colombia, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Switzerland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Canada and Sweden.

There might be some surprises in there, but Inglehart said peace a

nd democracy are important pillars of a society’s happiness. He also put in a positive word about the U.S.

“Though by no means the happiest country in the world, from a global perspective the United States looks pretty good,” Inglehart said in an interview with Reuters. “The country is not only prosperous; it ranks relatively high in gender equality, tolerance of ethnic and social diversity and has high levels of political freedom.”

Happiness research has, well, happily increased itself in the last decade. The “positive psychology” movement, with University of Pennsylvania researcher Martin Seligman widely credited as a founder (don't forget David Myers at the aptly named Hope College in Michigan), focuses on the upbeat potential of human nature rather than looking at depression or abnormalities. No doubt happiness is a highly personal matter, but it only helps our chances of making the world a better place if there are scholars in the area. Look for a future DHB series on happiness and positive psychology research.

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing . He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer . He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors' Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.