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Happiest in the world? Gallup poll names the countries having the most fun

Despite war, natural disasters and poverty, the world is an overwhelmingly happy place, the latest Gallup poll shows.
/ Source: NBC News

Despite war, natural disasters and poverty, the world is an overwhelmingly happy place, with people managing to grab joy where they can, the latest Gallup poll shows.

Summer fun kayaking on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.Getty Images

It finds 72 percent of people globally managed to smile or laugh “a lot” in a given day.

The happiest countries are in Latin America, partly for cultural reasons, the annual Gallup poll finds.

“That so many people report positive emotions in Latin America at least partly reflects the cultural tendency in the region to focus on the positives in life,” the report reads.

Happy countries in other parts of the world: are Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Switzerland.

The U.S. is near the top, with an index of 77, even with Ireland, Singapore and France.

Despite all of the negative things we read, see and hear in the news, the world isn’t doing that badly. More than 70 percent of the world said they smiled or laughed a lot the previous day, Jon Clifton, managing director of Gallup analytics, says in a foreword to the report.

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“Only seven countries had less than a majority of people say the same (including Ukraine, Iraq and Syria). So while we hear so much about the things that aren’t going well, 70 percent of the world is still finding a way to have fun.”

It’s only a small taste of experience, of course, and a lot depends on how you measure things, Gallup says.

“If you think happiness is how you see your life or, in survey speak, how you rate your life today on a scale of zero to 10 (with zero being the worst possible life and 10 being the best possible life), then Denmark and Switzerland are home to the happiest people in the world,” Clifton said.

“If you think happiness is how you experience your life through laughing, smiling and enjoyment, then Latin Americans are the happiest.”

For the survey, Gallup questioned 1,000 people 15 and older in each of 140 countries. Questions include “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday” and whether people experienced physical pain, worry or sadness. The survey giant comes up with a series of indexes. The countries at the top of the “positive experiences” index:

  • Paraguay 84 percent
  • Guatemala 83 percent
  • Honduras 83 percent
  • Uzbekistan 83 percent
  • Ecuador 83 percent
  • El Salvador 82 percent
  • Indonesia 82 percent

And the bottom of the index:

  • Syria 36 percent
  • Turkey 51 percent
  • Nepal 51 percent
  • Georgia 54 percent
  • Serbia 54 percent
  • Iraq 54 percent

There's a rival happiness report out Wednesday from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. It shows Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Canada are the happiest countries. The U.S. falls into 13th happiest place.

The least happy countries: Afghanistan, Togo, Syria and Burundi.