Where do the happiest people live? Gallup maps the world's emotions

Poll measures countries by how often their residents experience emotion

Topics: Behavioral Health, Service Lines

December 3, 2012

People in the United States tend to be more emotional and happier than people in places like the Middle East and North Africa—although Americans are significantly less happy than residents of the Philippines, according to a Gallup poll.

For the poll, researchers conducted telephone and face-to-face interviews with 1,000 residents of more than 150 countries between 2009 and 2011. Researchers asked residents whether they experienced five positive emotions such as enjoyment and feeling well-rested, and five negative emotions such as anger and stress, on a daily basis.

Filipinos are the most likely to experience a wide range of emotions with more than 60% experiencing emotions every day. Meanwhile, residents of Singapore are the least likely to experience any emotions on a daily basis, with just 36% reporting feeling emotions.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Singaporeans recognize they have "an emotional deficit," despite ranking among the world's wealthiest peoples with a per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $33,530.

"If you measure Singapore by the traditional indicators, they look like one of the best-run countries in the world," says study author Jon Clifton, but adds that "if you look at everything that makes life worth living, they're not doing so well."

Students in Singapore are discouraged "from thinking of themselves as individuals" and 82% of the population lives in government-built housing. "Staying emotionally neutral could be a way of coping with the stress of urban life," Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports.

Meanwhile, traditional economic indicators of a society's well-being such as GDP are being supplemented by behavioral indicators such as how residents experience positive and negative emotions, according to Gallup. For example, although a higher annual salary can improve a person's happiness, a 2010 study found that after an individual makes $75,000 annually, additional income has little effect on happiness levels (Clifton, Gallup, 11/20; Fisher, "World Views," The Washington Post, 11/28, Einhorn/Chen, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 11/20).

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