The ten happiest countries in the world are in Latin America, despite the region’s high levels of violence, poverty and inequality, according to a Gallup poll released on Thursday.
The small South American nation of Paraguay took the top spot for the second straight year, with a score of 89. The country has the eighth lowest average income in Latin America and the Caribbean, with individuals living on an average of $674 per month, according to World Bank statistics.
Honduras made the list at sixth place, despite the fact that it has the highest homicide rate in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Venezuelans also reported high levels of happiness – eighth in the world – while seeing economic woes deepen under a controversial government.
For the first time in the survey’s 10-year history, all top 10 happiest nations were in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala all tied for second place, with a score of 84, followed by Honduras, Panama and Venezuela, all at 82. Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua rounded out the top 10, just below the previous countries with a score of 81.
Gallup based happiness criteria on respondents’ self-reported answers to five questions about their day prior to the interview:
- Did they feel well-rested?
- Were they treated with respect?
- Did they smile or laugh a lot?
- Did they learn or do something interesting yesterday?
- Did they experience these feelings a lot yesterday?
Gallup said it scored the index based on the percentage of those five questions answered positively.
The U.S.-based polling firm said it interviewed approximately 1,000 respondents by telephone or in person in 143 countries, with a margin of error ranging between 2.1 percent and 5.3 percent, depending on the country.
Not all countries were surveyed, though — notably absent was Cuba, as well as other Caribbean countries such as Guyana, Suriname and the Bahamas.
The lowest happiness score in Latin America and the Caribbean was Haiti, at 104th out of 143 nations with a score of 61. The Caribbean country has the region’s lowest per capita income. However, Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the region, ranked 10th with a score of 81. The region’s fifth wealthiest population, Brazil, ranked as the fourth least happy in the region, ahead of Haiti, Jamaica and Belize.
“There is much to be learned from Latin America … because while they aren’t the wealthiest people in the world, they are certainly among the happiest,” concluded Gallup’s Jon Clifton in an analysis of the poll results.
Happiness in the face of challenging circumstances was not a uniquely Latino experience, according to the survey. The typhoon-wracked Philippines reported the highest score among Asian countries and 11th highest in the world.
Rwanda reported the highest score in Africa and 23rd overall (its score tied with that of the United States), while having one of the lowest incomes in the world, an average of approximately $123 per month, according to the World Bank.