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Latinos among the world’s happiest people

As written in the Declaration of Independence, the American ideal is largely represented by "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." And as a new poll indicates, Latinos are particularly attuned to at least one aspect of this maxim.

According to a recent survey conducted by survey data firm Gallup, the world's happiest people are Latinos.

The poll analyzed 150,000 residents of nearly 150 different countries around the world. In order to reach its conclusion that Hispanics and Latinos are some of the world's most positive people, respondents were asked a variety of questions that assessed their current level of contentment, such as if they experience a lot of enjoyment over the past 24 hours, if they felt well-rested, whether they were treated with respect, if they smiled or laughed a lot in the past day and whether they learned something new or interesting recently.

Overall, Gallup notes that most of today's people are cheerful. For example, on average, 85 percent of adults polled said they felt like they were treated with respect, nearly three-fourths said they smiled and laughed frequently, 73 percent said they felt enjoyment throughout most of their days and just over 70 percent said they were well-rested.

What pollsters took away as the most revealing aspect were the countries from which the highest percentage of positive emotions were felt. Of the 10 countries with the highest rate of people responding "yes" to the questions asked, seven of them were Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama, Venezuela and Paraguay. The non-Latino countries were the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago and Thailand.

The countries whose people were largely pessimistic included Singapore, Armenia, Iraq, Georgia, Yemen, Serbia, Belarus, Lithuania, Madagascar, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Haiti, Togo and Macedonia.

Economic well-being not necessarily associated with level of happiness
Prior research done on happiness levels has linked economic success to people's overall contentment. However, the Gallup poll found that this generalization largely didn't hold up. For example, Panama – a country whose gross domestic product ranks in 90th place among the 150 countries Gallup tracked – have a high rate of people who appear to be quite positive about life and their overall circumstances.

Despite individuals' contentment, economic circumstances may prevent them from staying in their country of origin. They often have to take up residence in another country, such as the U.S., where they then send money to their loved ones who stayed behind.

The contentment level of so many people in Latin America may explain why so many immigrants in the U.S. today are similarly upbeat about life in general. University of Leicester professor David Bartram published a study in August 2010. In his analysis, he found that based on a World Values Survey, there was a "strong association" for immigrants to be happy in the U.S. Much of it depended on their income level, "but even for immigrants that association is still relatively weak."

As for U.S. natives, they ranked in the 33rd position for overall positive outlook. Immigrants from other countries – especially Latin America – may be able to play a role in improving Americans' upbeat nature.

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Gallup: Latin Americans most positive in the world

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