An extensive research study focused on “well-being” levels in countries around the world has concluded that Panama is the happiest place in the world.
That may not please the Walt Disney Company, which bills Disneyland as the “happiest place on Earth.” But this study, conducted by the well-respected Gallup service, is based on actual data and a survey of more than 133,000 people in 135 countries.
The Gallup and Healthways Global study focused on six factors – “life evaluation”; emotional health; work environment; physical health; healthy behavior and basic access, defined as “feeling safe, satisfied, and optimistic within a community.”
Panamanians are apparently feeling very safe, satisfied and optimistic, the research found. A whopping 61 percent are “thriving” in at least three areas of the study. “Panama leads not only the region, but the world in four of the five well-being elements — purpose, social, community, and physical well-being,” Gallup reports.
“Panama’s strong and growing economy, an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent in 2013, and national development may be the most significant factors contributing to its high thriving levels,” Gallup says in the report.
Costa Rica was the next highest-rank country at 44 percent. Denmark was next at 40 percent, followed by Austria at 39 percent.
Overall, six of the top 10 countries listed are in Latin America. The United States finished 12th, scoring high grades in social well-being and “purpose,” but following down in the other categories. Canada was ranked 10th.
More than anything, the study measures the attitude of the people, which is different than the economic and political studies that often make headlines. And the report seems to confirm what many people report anecdotally – the Panamanian people are friendly and happy.
“Maybe there’s something in Panama’s canal water,” USA Today suggested.
Gallup’s study exposed the general disposition of the Latin American people, which is quite different than the rest of the world. Even when struggling, they tend to push down the negatives and stress, which is one reason people enjoy visiting Panama.
“Residents of Latin America generally [evaluate] their lives more highly than those in other regional groups, partly reflecting a cultural tendency in the region to focus on the positives in life,” Gallup reports.
The full report can be found here.
Duncan McGowan is president of Punta Pacifica Realty, a Panama real estate agency focused on Punta Pacifica, the exclusive neighborhood of 18 towers perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.