Latin American Countries Boast the Happiest People in the World

12/26/2012

Happy people dancing photoGallop Inc. recently took an aerial view of the world looking for its happiest inhabitants. The countries that came out on top were not the richest, most successful, or longest living. In fact, many of the world's happiest countries are loaded with social and economic problems. 

A poll released Wednesday of 150,000 respondents found that Latin Americans tend to be the happiest. Seven of the top 10 countries came from Latin America.

Happy in the Midst of Problems

According to MyFoxDC:

Many of the seven do poorly in traditional measures of well-being, like Guatemala, a country torn by decades of civil war followed by waves of gang-driven criminality that give it one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Guatemala sits just above Iraq on the United Nations' Human Development Index, a composite of life expectancy, education and per capita income. But it ranks seventh in positive emotions.

"In Guatemala, it's a culture of friendly people who are always smiling," said Luz Castillo, a 30-year-old surfing instructor on MyFoxDC. "Despite all the problems that we're facing, we're surrounded by natural beauty that lets us get away from it all.

Gallop Inc. asked 1,000 people in each of 148 countries polled last year if they were well rested, had been treated with respect, smiled or laughed a lot, learned or did something interesting, and felt feelings of enjoyment the previous day. In Panama and Paraguay 85 percent of respondents said yes to all the questions. Countries like El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Costa Rica fared well too. 

Wealthier countries didn’t perform as well. Singapore, Germany, and France were all at the bottom of the list. The U.S. was number 33 -- it seems rich and happy do not necessarily go hand and hand. 

The most unhappy countries were: Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Haiti, Georgia, Lithuania, and Armenia. 

Looking on the Bright Side

According to MyFoxDC, "Jon Clifton, a partner at Gallup, acknowledged the poll partly measured cultures' overall tendency to express emotions, positive or negative. But he said skeptics shouldn't undervalue the expression of positive emotion as an important phenomenon in and of itself."

How you view your life may be as important as how it actually is. You are the way you view the world and if you're always looking at a glass as half empty then it will be. Even when it’s tempting to be a downer, try and look at the bright side. If you need help, put a reminder on your bulletin board or refrigerator to be more optimistic. Find the good in what you have not what you want to have.

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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