High school students in the Dominican Republic are the most satisfied in the world

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Fifteen-year-old students in the Dominican Republic are more likely to say that they’re very satisfied with their lives than in any other country.

This finding is part of a study on student well-being conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and released today. The study asked 540,000 students across 72 countries to rate their lives on a sale of 0 to 10, where 0 was the worst possible life and 10 the best. The average was 7.3.

Overall, Latin American countries came out on top for student happiness. In Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Mexico, more than 1-in-2 students said that they are very happy with their lives. The same was true in Montenegro. Several East Asian countries featured at the low end of student happiness, with one in five students in Hong Kong, Korea, Macau, and Chinese Taipei reporting high levels of satisfaction.

The study found no relationship between the life satisfaction expressed by adolescents and the state of their country’s economy, in contrast to adults, who tend to report being more satisfied with life if they live in higher-income countries. One explanation for this is that the survey only included adolescents who were already enrolled in a school, therefore excluding the opinions of 15-year-olds who do not attend school and likely live in greater poverty.

Overall, students’ academic performance had little bearing on their satisfaction, the study found. In most countries, top-achieving and low-performing students reported similar levels of life satisfaction. 

But the study did find one correlation between grades and happiness. On average, students from countries that performed poorly in science tended to report higher life satisfaction than students from countries that tend to perform well in high school science. There are some exceptions to this: Students in Finland, Netherlands and Sweden report high satisfaction with their lives and also do well in the sciences, while students in Turkey score below average and report low satisfaction with life.

However, measuring a “life satisfaction” across different countries is complicated, as it is self-reported subjective evaluation of the quality of their lives.

One possible explanation for the difference betweens students’ satisfaction across countries is cultural differences in defining happiness and how to express it, notes the report. “In some cultures in might not be desirable to say that you are happy, while in others it might be highly desirable to say so.”

Here’s the full list:

Countries and economies ranked by percentage of happy students (self-reported):