Some of the happiest places on Earth are in Latin America

October 6, 2016

March 20 marked the international day of happiness. The United Nations celebrates this day as a way to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.  What does it mean to be happy? For the UN, three key aspects of an individual’s life lead to well being and happiness: ending poverty, reducing inequality and protecting our planet – and it launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals that will help achieve that.

Recent news articles reported that some of the happiest places on Earth are in Latin America.  For example. Colombia recently ranked first among the “happiest places on earth” in 2015, according to a WIN/Gallup survey of 68 countries around the globe. Colombia joined Argentina, Panama, Mexico, and Ecuador to make up a total of five Latin American countries in the top 10 “happiness index” scores. The other countries in the top 10 included two from the Middle East, two from Asia, and one Pacific Island nation. The happiness index reflects the percentage of survey respondents who reported feeling happy about their lives, subtracted by the percentage who felt unhappy. The scores ranged from 75 percent happiness in Ecuador to 85 percent in Colombia. Out of the five Latin American countries with top 10 happiness ratings, only Argentina ranked among the top countries in hope or economic optimism – the two other indices measured by the survey. So what is it that makes Latin Americans so happy? Well, doesn’t happiness lie in the smile of the beholder ? Sure, according to the Happy Planet Index ( HPI ), people with the biggest smile on their faces are scattered in places such as Guatemala, Colombia and El Salvador.  In this study, Latin American countries ranked amongst the top 10 happiest places on earth.  Despite the economic and political instabilities in their countries,  Latin Americans are, after all, rather happy people and, more importantly, satisfied in their own country .  The index, took into account 151 countries, and was calculated from sustainable well-being that each place offers its citizens. It basically measures the effectiveness of the nations by converting its natural resources for happiness and life-expectancy of the local population.

We would like to share some of the results with you:


Costa Rica

A country without enemies certainly has happy people , with a high life expectancy of 79.3 years. Costa Rica is rich in natural beauty, living up to the local motto , " Pura Vida” – in beauty and nature.


Coffee lovers would feel right at home in Colombia  -- after all, this is  where some of the best coffee in the world  comes from.  Even in a country stained by trafficking, perhaps Colombians are just happier to be able to take a few days off to drink some of the best coffee in the world.  To help, Colombia has the second highest number of public holidays in the world.  Sign me up!

El Salvador

The people of El Salvador are satisfied with their local cuisine, beaches and pleasant neighbors including Guatemala and Mexico. Even if the country suffers from gang violence, it seems that there was a truce recently reflected in a sharp fall of incidents.


A developing nation, this country has the highest score of the HPI in South America. The natural wonders seem to overcome the criminal reputation that Venezuela has, causing residents to place the most value on its largest waterfalls in the world and gorgeous dunes.


Adventurous travelers are starting acquire a real appreciation for Nicaragua – a  country that preserves its natural beauty very well . With its increasing tourism, residents have been excited and welcomed surfers and backpackers as ecotourists.  Moreover, it is considered one of the safest countries in Central America.


Despite being one of the world's poorest countries, Panama has a high score of well being and overflowing positivity. The improvement in the standard of living and rising economy may have contributed to it. Its beautiful beaches and many cultural festivals also contribute to the happiness of Panamanians.


Despite being torn by civil war, Guatemala ranked 10th in the HPI . The problems may seem small when mountains, volcanoes and the sacred Mayan ruins, surround it.

This article might have contributed the Happiness Index for the Latinos outside of their native countries.

About Author(s)

Marisa is a third-year law student at the University of Pittsburgh. She is pursuing certificates in Health Law and in Latin American Studies. She is interested in gender and race issues and how they affect immigration and immigrant communities. She also does research in public health issues. She has been contributing with articles for Panoramas since 2015.