The Happiest Countries

Paraguayan Fruit Seller

“Paraguayan Fruit Seller” by Salym Fayad via ProQuest CultureGrams


When comparing countries and cultures, it’s sometimes tempting to make value judgments about the comparisons. People in a wealthy country might seem better off than those in a poor one. A country where the majority of households have indoor plumbing might seem superior to a country where most households don’t. People who drive private cars, eat a variety of foods, attend good schools, date who they want, and own their own homes might seem more fortunate than those who are unable to do so. But one should be cautious about making such value judgments because things may not always be as they appear.

A recent Gallup survey of adults in 143 countries yielded some interesting results about happiness. According to the Positive Experience Index, the top 10 happiest countries in 2014 were all Latin American countries:

  • Paraguay (89)
  • Colombia (84)
  • Ecuador (84)
  • Guatemala (84)
  • Honduras (82)
  • Panama (82)
  • Venezuela (82)
  • Costa Rica (81)
  • El Salvador (81)
  • Nicaragua (81)

Note that these scores do not often correlate with economic well being. Guatemala, for example, is a poor country, but it ties for second place on the happiness list above. Nor are these the countries that are most technologically advanced. Incidentally, the United States ranked 15th happiest, tied with 11 other countries, with a score of 79. The highest ranked European nation was Switzerland, with a score of 80.

The bottom ten countries, who scored lowest on the Positive Experience Index, were:

  • Sudan (47)
  • Tunisia (52)
  • Bangladesh (54)
  • Serbia (54)
  • Turkey (54)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (55)
  • Georgia (55)
  • Lithuania (55)
  • Nepal (55)
  • Afghanistan (55)

A useful critical thinking exercise might be to examine the full Gallup index and speculate about some of the reasons behind the rankings.

For information about these countries and others on Gallup’s Positive Experience Index, consult CultureGrams.

Kip Clark

Kip Clark is a Supervising Editor at CultureGrams. He has been with ProQuest for over 15 years. Prior to his employment with ProQuest, Kip worked as a writing and humanities instructor, editor, research assistant, furniture shipper, flower presser, and cookie maker. He has a BA and MA in English, with an emphasis on the literature of the American West. Kip has traveled throughout much of Western Europe, as well as to Kenya, Uganda, Canada, Israel, and Russia. His interests include cooking, reading, playing racquetball, and collecting spinning tops.

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