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Gallup: Happiest People Live in Latin America

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The Beatles told us money can’t buy you love, but can it buy happiness?

An annual Gallup survey assessing global emotions suggests that it can improve your feelings of well-being and happiness, but only to a point.

“The richer the country, the higher people typically rate their life, according to the annual World Happiness Report issued by the United Nations,” said Jon Clifton, global managing partner at Gallup, in the report’s preface. “However, recent global research from researchers at Purdue and the University of Virginia found that there appears to be a satiation point with respect to income – about $100,000 – and that being too rich might actually make you see your life a little worse.”

Through a series of positive and negative questions, the report, published April 25, sought to gauge the emotional state of adult respondents from around 140 countries on a single day in 2018.

Two indexes – one for positive and one for negative emotions – ranked nations with scores from 0 to 100 based on answers from around 1,000 people in nearly all of the countries surveyed.

The mixed results bring to mind another well-known line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Latin American nations once again filled most of the top-10 rankings for citizens reporting positive emotional experiences.

Paraguay and Panama tied with a score of 85, closely followed by Guatemala and Mexico (84). El Salvador, Indonesia (the only country outside Latin America in the positive index top 10) and Honduras all received a positive experience index score of 83.

The nations with the two lowest positive scores were Afghanistan (43) and Belarus (48).

Overall, 71% of the world’s population reported positive emotional experiences in 2018, tying 2013-15 for the highest overall percentage since the poll began in 2006.

However, 30% of the world’s population reported negative emotional experiences last year, tying 2017 for the highest overall percentage in the poll’s history.

The nations with the top 10 negative emotional experience scores were in Africa or the Middle East, with Chad having the highest negative score at 54. Niger and Sierra Leone had scores of 50, followed by Iraq (49) and Iran (48).

“As in past years, people in most of the countries with the highest negative scores in 2018 were contending with some type of turmoil, and many at the top of the list last year have been there for several years,” the report said.

Taiwan (14) and Singapore and Kazakhstan (both at 17) had the lowest negative index scores.

By comparison, the U.S. received a negative index score of 35 and tied with Albania, Iran and Sri Lanka as the fourth most stressed nation last year.

Income played a significant role, with 68% of the poorest 20% of the U.S. saying they were stressed, compared to only 46% of the richest 20% in the nation.

“The answer to whether money truly buys happiness is still far from being understood, but this report gives global thinkers an idea of who is living the best and worst lives in the world,” Clifton said.

The full report is available here. An interactive version of the report is available here. The full data set for countries is available here.