For the second straight year, well-being in Panama has ranked as the highest in the world, according to the Gallup-Healthways Country Well-Being report.
Panama’s well-being could be said to be contagious as just across the border Costa Rica came in a distant second place. Third place went to Puerto Rico. In general, Latin American countries ranked higher than any other region.
Rounding out the top ten were Switzerland, Belize, Chile, Denmark, Guatemala, and Austria and Mexico, both tied for ninth place.
Puerto Rico’s happiness doesn’t seem to be rubbing off on its U.S. overseers, as the United States plummeted in the ranking, dropping from 12th to 23rd, one spot ahead of Canada and one behind Israel.
“Residents of many Latin American countries are among the most likely in the world to report daily positive experiences such as smiling and laughing, feeling enjoyment, and feeling treated with respect each day,” the polling firm says.
Sub-Saharan Africa ranked lowest as a region, while the countries with the lowest level of well-being were Afghanistan, Bhutan, Cameroon, Togo, and Tunisia.
Panama’s continuing rein at the top of the well-being chart is somewhat baffling to some observers, who point out that it has one of the highest levels on inequality in the world (as do Guatemala and Belize, also in the top ten countries in the well-being ranking). Others, though, note that money doesn’t always equal happiness, and that the ranking uses subjective well-being measures rather than objective measures such as GDP or mortality rates.
The ranking looks at responses to questions in five categories from 146,000 survey participants in 145 countries. The categories were purpose, social, financial, community, and physical, and included questions asking if people like what they did every day, if their friends and family give them positive energy, if they recently worried about money, if they like where they live, and if they feel they are healthy.