Flar Earth: Boredom triumphs

DOES your heart sink at the knowledge that the country enjoying the best quality of life, according to an American survey of 124 countries, is Denmark? Norway came second in the survey carried out by Pennsylvania University, followed by Sweden, Austria and the Netherlands. They were ranked according to 36 criteria which included welfare and health services, public transport, democracy, economy, culture and women's rights.

This worthy but dreary list prompts speculation about which country would come top if alternative criteria were used to measure quality of life: say, sunshine, quality and abundance of fresh food, nightlife, excitement, beauty and variety of landscape, entertainment provided by antics of corrupt public figures, and freedom to break the rules and bend the laws. Top of the list would be, without doubt, Argentina.

This may sound frivolous - such a life-style may not be within the grasp of many Argentines and is not, in any case, everybody's cup of tea - but if Sweden and Austria are so great, how come they have some of the highest rates of suicide?