Special Report

The World's Most Content (and Miserable) Countries

11. El Salvador
> Positive experience index score: 81
> Pct. smiled or laughed: 89% (4th highest)

> GDP per capita: $7,505 (58th lowest)
> Life expectancy: 71 (60th lowest)

More people smiled or laughed in the previous 24 hours in El Salvador than all but three other countries. Money is not the biggest factor in the happiness of El Salvadorians. Government spending as a percentage of GDP has been among the lowest out of all of the countries surveyed. And despite the fact that the country’s GDP growth was among the lowest in 2013, people were still generally happy. Approximately three-quarters of El Salvadorians said they learned something new in the previous day, among the highest percentages of the countries surveyed.

10. Venezuela
> Positive experience index score:81 (tied, 9th)
> Pct. smiled or laughed: 86% (8th highest)
> GDP per capita: $13,586 (56th highest)
> Life expectancy: 74 (49th highest)

Consumer prices in Venezuela have risen faster than prices in nearly every other country each year since 2009. The country’s inflation rate was estimated at 38% last year, more than that of any other country except for Iran. Compared with other countries where residents have more positive experiences, the unemployment rate in Venezuela was quite high, at an estimated 9.2% in 2013. The country also suffers from high crime rates and violent anti-government protests are fairly common. Despite the high inflation, unemployment, and social unrest, the country’s residents had an overall positive experience living in the country. In response to some of the difficulties, President Nicolas Maduro announced the creation of the Vice Ministry for the Supreme Social Happiness of the Venezuelan People at the end of last year. The office is meant to coordinate social programs for disadvantaged Venezuelans.

9. Honduras
> Positive experience index score: 81
> Pct. smiled or laughed: 88% (tied – 5th highest)
> GDP per capita: $4,844 (42nd lowest)
> Life expectancy: 73 (62nd highest)

Nearly three-quarters of Hondurans said they learned something new in the previous day, one of the highest levels of all of the countries surveyed. Nearly 90% of Honduran respondents said they smiled or laughed a lot in the previous 24 hours, a higher figure than all but four other countries. A high percentage of residents also said they felt well-rested, another key to feeling positive. Hondurans felt positive despite the country’s political unrest in recent years, including a 2009 coup that cost then President Manuel Zelaya his office. Earlier this month, the country’s police forcefully removed protesting opposition lawmakers, including Zelaya, from the Honduran parliament building.

8. Denmark
> Positive experience index score: 82
> Pct. smiled or laughed: 78% (42nd highest)
> GDP per capita: $37,794 (14th highest)
> Life expectancy: 79 (tied – 21st highest)

Denmark has consistently been one of the world’s most positive countries, and it is the only non Latin American country on the list this year. As many as 92% of Danish residents said they experience enjoyment the day before, a higher percentage than in any other country. Unlike other positive nations, Denmark’s economy is relatively well developed, with an estimated GDP per capita of $37,794 last year, among the highest figures in the world. The country also boasts well-funded social services that although they require higher-than-average tax rates, may also considerably lower stress levels. Danes also have among the highest life-expectancies in the world, at 79 years as of 2011, which may also potentially contribute to positive feelings.

7. Colombia
> Positive experience index score: 82
> Pct. smiled or laughed: 85% (tied – 13th highest)
> GDP per capita: $11,088 (64th highest)
> Life expectancy: 73 (62nd highest)

Despite the fact that, on average, one in 10 workers were unemployed, a high percentage of Colombians said they experienced enjoyment within the previous 24 hours when surveyed. Nearly three-quarters of its residents said that they learned something new in the past day, and 85% said that they smiled or laughed a lot. Only three countries had a higher percentage of citizens who felt that they were treated with respect. After years of conflict, Colombia and the long-active FARC rebel group have been actively engaged in peace talks since 2012, another factor that could be contributing to the positive feelings of Colombian citizens.

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