WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Despite the conflict and unrest that dominates much of the news, people around the world are experiencing a lot of positive emotions. At least seven in 10 adults worldwide report experiencing lots of enjoyment, laughing or smiling a lot, feeling well-rested, and being treated with respect, while a slight majority (51%) report that they learned or did something interesting the day before.
Gallup measured each of these positive emotions in 138 countries in 2013 by asking people whether they experienced them the previous day. Gallup compiles the "yes" results into a Positive Experience Index score for each country. Findings for all countries can be found on page 2.
Of the 10 countries in the world with the highest percentages experiencing all of these positive emotions, all but one of them is in Latin America. For the third year in a row, Paraguay led the world in positive emotions, with Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Ecuador rounding out the top five in 2013. That so many people are reporting positive emotions in Latin America at least partly reflects the cultural tendency in the region to focus on the positives in life.
Denmark made its second appearance on the Positive Experience Index top 10 list in 2013, after tying for ninth in 2010. Denmark is notable because except for one year, it has always been No. 1 when it comes to the percentage of people who rate their lives positively enough to be considered "thriving."
For the second year in a row, the country with the lowest positive emotions is, not surprisingly, Syria, with a score of 36 on the index. This marks an all-time low for any country Gallup has measured. Fewer than one in three Syrians report feeling well-rested (31%), feeling enjoyment (31%), or learning or doing something interesting (25%) the day before.
Positive Emotions in the Home of the Gross National Happiness Index
Bhutan, the country known for its Gross National Happiness Index, was included in the Gallup World Poll for the first time in 2013. Two in three Bhutanese responded positively to the Positive Experience Index items, making Bhutan 82nd out of the 138 countries studied. The lack of respect Bhutanese believe they receive may be keeping their overall score lower than one might expect. Less than half (47%) of Bhutanese said they were treated with a great deal of respect -- the lowest percentage out of all countries measured in 2013. On the other hand, Bhutan is No. 1 in the world when it comes to feeling well-rested (88%).
Money and Happiness
People who make more money tend to report higher positive emotions. Last year, there was a 10-percentage-point gap globally between the highest and lowest income brackets. But not all data suggest money buys happiness. Previous research in the United States found that when these same metrics are used, a higher income level makes a significant impact on a person's overall happiness, but only up to $75,000. Above that level, income makes much less of a difference.
After eight years of tracking self-reported experiences around the world, Gallup has produced a number of insights that would not have been uncovered solely through traditional economic indicators. The insights include the surprising similarities between men's and women's evaluations of their lives; emerging well-being divides within certain countries between ethnicities; how the self-employed around the world are worse off than the unemployed; and, perhaps most interestingly, how well-being has been a better leading indicator for social unrest than traditional economic indicators such as GDP per capita, particularly in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia. Tracking how people are doing through subjective assessments should obviously not be the only indicator to watch in terms of societal progress, but Gallup's recent findings suggest it cannot be ignored.
Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each country, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2013 in 138 countries and areas. For results based on the total global sample, the margin of sampling error is less than ±1 percentage point at the 95% confidence level. For results based on country-level samples, the margin of error ranges from a low of ±2.1 to a high of ±5.3. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.