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Why Latin Americans top the happiness rankings

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Rodrigo Abd/AP/File

(Read caption) A couple dances in a public park in Guatemala City in June. A poll released Wednesday of nearly 150,000 people around the world says seven of the world's 10 countries with the most upbeat attitudes are in Latin America.

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This month an index of global happiness was released, and the results showed that many countries in Latin America were the world’s happiest. Panama, Paraguay, El Salvador, Venezuela, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Costa Rica were all at the top of the survey. Colombia was ranked 11th, and Mexico and Brazil ranked around 20th.

Experts have suggested many reasons for the results. One includes the ability of Latin Americans to look beyond immediate problems and live life day-by-day, despite what is going on externally. It suggests that constant problems make people adapt and live positively, perhaps because it is difficult to constantly fear the worse and still live a productive life. Other explanations include cultural aspects that teach Latin Americans to keep a positive face on things, even if there are personal problems.

These are both interesting suggestions. The fact that having less might make someone feel as if he has more to be positive about could come from an appreciation for the smaller things in life. This could also be a reason why countries like France and Germany did not do well on the survey: if you are higher up, you will hit the ground harder if you do happen to fall. Regarding a positive attitude, I think the culture of Latin America does not just place a happy face on every situation, as families and close friends do have constant, open, and honest discussions, both positive and negative. It might be that in difficult times the support people get from those around them helps lift everyone in general. Even if negative things do happen, it is the support from families and close friends that makes the negativity more bearable. 

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