They say that money can't buy happiness, and indeed at least one study indicates that old adage is true. A study conducted by Gallup called about 1,000 people in 148 countries in order to determine which nations were the happiest. Surprisingly, wealthier countries with more robust economies were nowhere near the top of the list.
The pollsters asked respondents questions to ascertain their happiness level the day before. "Did you feel well-rested yesterday?" the pollsters asked, among other questions. "Were you treated with respect all day yesterday? Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Did you learn or do something interesting yesterday?" Then they calculated the average "yes" answers that people gave to the questions, which they took to mean a relatively upbeat populace.
The happiest countries were Panama and Paraguay, according to the study, with 85 percent of participants answering "yes" to the questions. Also in the top ten of happiest countries were El Salvadaor, Venezuela, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, all of which are in Latin America. The only countries outside of Latin America that cracked the top 10 were Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the countries where the fewest respondents answered that they were unhappy were war-torn lands, like Iraq and Afghanistan. Other countries at the bottom of the pile were places where ethnic strife or political instability is relatively common, like Serbia, Belarus, and Azerbaijan.
However, the least happy country was a relatively wealthy one. Singapore, which has the fifth greatest GDP per capita and is a palm tree-studded haven for businesses, ranked as the least happy country in the world, with 46 percent responding "yes" to the five questions. Inhabitants say that they work like dogs and that there is no work-life balance there.
Wealthy Western countries were generally in the middle of the list. The United States scored the number 33 spot, while Germany and France were tied at number 47 - with Somaliland, a relatively poor region of Somalia.
Some critics say that the responses of the poll may have tainted with a cultural bias to be positive with strangers. Others point to the decline in landlines in wealthier nations or a tendency to not have phones altogether in some poorer regions.
Other polls also measure happiness differently. A recent United Nations "World Happiness Report" looked at long-term life satisfaction. That report found that countries like Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway consistently rank near the top, while nations like Tanzania and Zimbabwe fall to the bottom. In that report, the United States was ranked #10.