The happiest (and least happy) countries in the world, ranked

Bolivians feel the highs and lows.
Bolivians feel the highs and lows.
Image: AP Photo/Juan Karita
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As it turns out, humanity is pretty happy.

That’s according to the latest Global Emotions report by polling company Gallup, which interviewed more than 150,000 adults in 148 countries in 2014 about their emotions and wellbeing. Asking questions such as “did you smile or laugh yesterday” or “did you learn or do something interesting yesterday?” the survey rated positive emotions on a scale from 0 to 100, and was able to rank countries according to a “positive experience index.”

The world’s positive experience index average for 2014 was 71/100—the same as 2013, and just about what it’s been since 2006.

The leading countries in terms of positive emotions were all in Latin America, from Paraguay (89/100) to Nicaragua (81/100):

The country with least positive emotional score was Sudan (47/100), which is also the only country surveyed to score less than 50/100. Happiness levels are also low in Tunisia, Serbia, Turkey, and other countries with current or recent political unrest and war:

Even in war-torn countries or very poor countries, people still smile and laugh quite a bit. In Afghanistan, for instance, 52% of respondents to the interview said they had smiled or laughed the day before. Only in Tunisia (47%), Serbia (43%) and Turkey (43%) did less than half the respondents say they had.

Gallup’s survey also looked at the “negative experience index,” which is compiled by asking questions such as if the respondent had experienced anger, pain, or worry for much of the previous day.

The average negative experience index declined slightly in 2014 (25/100) compared to 2013 (27/100).

Countries that ranked higher on the negative experience index included Iraq (56/100) and Iran (50/100), both of which have ranked high on the list for several years.

According to Gallup, some countries had notably high “emotional” levels. In Bolivia and El Salvador, for example, 59% of respondents replied “yes” to all of the questions about both positive and negative emotions. Other countries proved to be relatively unemotional, with both low positive and negative emotion scores.

External conditions like corruption, hunger, and economic hardship were particularly correlated with negative emotions, according to Jon Clifton, director of analytics at Gallup. For instance, Greece or Syria had higher negative emotional scores and lower positive ones in 2013 compared to the previous year (Syria was not considered safe enough to be surveyed in 2014). Personal factors, such as individual freedom and the presence of communities and networks, were correlated with positive emotional outcomes.