Where in the world are the happiest people?

People in Paraguay are some of the happiest in the world, according to a new poll.Photo / File
People in Paraguay are some of the happiest in the world, according to a new poll.Photo / File

The world's happiest people aren't in Qatar, the richest country by most measures. They aren't in Japan, the nation with the highest life expectancy. Canada, with its chart-topping percentage of university graduates, doesn't make the top 10.

A nee poll of nearly 150,000 people around the world says seven of the world's 10 countries with the most upbeat attitudes are in Latin America.

Many of the seven do poorly in traditional measures of wellbeing, 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. "Despite all the problems that we're facing, we're surrounded by natural beauty that lets us get away from it all."

Gallup asked about 1000 people in 148 countries 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 per cent of those polled said yes to all five, putting those countries at the top of the list. They were followed closely by El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Guatemala, the Philippines, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

The people least likely to report positive emotions lived in Singapore, the wealthy and orderly city-state that ranks among the most developed in the world. Other wealthy countries also sat surprisingly low on the list. Germany and France tied with the poor African state of Somaliland for 47th place.

Prosperous nations can be deeply unhappy ones. And poverty-stricken ones are often awash in positivity, or at least a close approximation of it.

It's a paradox with serious implications for a relatively new and controversial field called happiness economics that seeks to improve government performance by adding people's perceptions of their satisfaction to traditional metrics such as life expectancy, per capita income and graduation rates.

The Happiest countries:

1 (even). Panama
1 (even). Paraguay
3. El Salvador
4. Trinidad and Tobago
5. Thailand
7(even) Guatemala
7 (even). Philippines

The Saddest countries:

1. Singapore
2. Armenia
3. Georgia
4. Serbia
7. Belarus
8. Lithuania

- AP

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