Why the World's Happiest People Are Found in Latin America

Latin American countries, a consistent presence on world happiness lists, dominate the top 10 in a recent Gallup poll. (Photo: Shutterstock).

Want to surround yourself with happy, positive people? According to a recent Gallup poll, Latin America is your best bet, with the region for the first time ever in the history of the "Positive Experience Index" playing host to the top 10 happiest countries.

To collect the data, Gallup interviewed roughly 1,000 people in each of the 143 countries polled — asking such questions as, "Did you feel well-rested yesterday," "Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?" and "Were you treated with respect yesterday?" The results were then added together to form an average score — with the Latin America countries listed below earning the highest marks.

Gallup top 10 happies countries list

So what is it about Latin America that makes it home to so many happy people? In an interview with the Guardian last year, Laura Montenegro, cultural attache for Panama, cited both family and nature as big factors.

“Family bonds are very strong here, and on Sundays everyone still gets together,” she said. “So even when people are struggling they don’t feel alone. We have a very beautiful landscape too and even in Panama city you never feel too far from nature."

Rich Basas, a guest blogger for the Christian Science Monitor, added that Latin America is also big on shrugging off the small stuff.

"There is also a culture in Latin America that does not promote negativity with every aspect of life," he wrote. "Being constantly negative may not thrive when a community of open and honest individuals is there for support. There is simply no room to seek out the worst-case scenario when you have so many in your corner."

Overall, most people throughout the world are rather happy — with more than 70 percent saying that they "experienced a lot of enjoyment, smiled or laughed a lot, felt well-rested and felt treated with respect." The report even found trending happiness in areas of the world rife with conflict.

"Perhaps the most surprising finding from the countries in the world with the fewest people reporting positive emotions is that a place such as war-torn Afghanistan still has majorities of people saying that they smiled or laughed a lot the day before the interview -- perhaps testimony of the resiliency of the human spirit," said Gallup.

Interested in finding our your country's score? Check out the full Happiness Index here.