Happiest Place on Earth
Latin Americans are the more positive people on the planet, poll reveals.
Latin American countries boast the most positive people worldwide, says a Gallup poll which reveals that of the top ten countries exhibiting positive attitudes, eight of them are in Latin America. Residents in Panama and Paraguay are most likely to report feeling positive, while residents in Singapore, Armenia, and Iraq are the least likely to do so.
Posing questions like, “Did you feel well-rested yesterday?”, “Were you treated with respect all day yesterday?” and “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?” to residents of 148 countries, Gallup found that 85 percent of Panamanian and Paraguayan respondents replied affirmatively to these and similar queries, followed by 84 percent of El Salvadorians and Venezuelans, 83 percent of residents of Trinidad and Tobago and Thailand, with the rest of the top ten rounded out by the nations of Guatemala, the Philippines, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, all with over 80 percent of residents reporting feeling consistently positive.
By contrast, around half of residents of the least positive nations reported regularly feeling positive. Only 46 percent of Singaporeans state that they feel positive, with 49 percent of Armenians and 50 percent of Iraqis doing so as well.
Other questions asked residents if they had learned or had done something interesting the previous day, and if they had experienced enjoyment most of the day.
Of all the questions, the only one that received a relatively low affirmative response was if people had learned or done something interesting the previous day, with an overall worldwide response of less than half, at 43 percent.
Overall, however, the global Gallup results indicate that generally adults feel positive, with 85 percent reporting that they feel they were treated with respect all day, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) saying that they smiled or laughed a lot, roughly the same number reporting that they felt enjoyment (73 percent), and still the same number feeling well-rested (72 percent).
However, with the majority of the most positive people residing in Latin American countries, where the national average of feeling positive exceeds the global average, the question is, “What accounts for the difference?”
“Latin Americans mostly believe in a being higher than themselves and feel that, ‘Que sera sera,’—‘whatever will be will be,’” Cindy Bautista, LCSW, associate director of field education as the Columbia University School of Social Work.
Bautista, who worked for nine years as a school social worker in a mostly Latino community, says that she witnessed the population’s optimism and positivity in “even the most dire of situations,” adding that they tend to make the best out of their situations.
One key factor in fostering this ability is the collective mentality, she notes, in which “communities, neighborhoods and families are unified and work together to support each other's goals, dreams and aspirations.”
Do these factors continue to hold true for Latin Americans who have come to live in the United States? Yes, Bautista says, but to a lesser extent.
“The positive attitude remains for those families that come to the United States although not as strong as when they are in their homeland,” she tells demodirt.com. “Acculturation and assimilation plays a significant role in the attitudes of children and grandchildren. When children stay in the homeland while their parents are in the United States it causes stress and sadness. When the children eventually get to the United States, they have to acclimate themselves to a renewed relationship with their parents and adjustment to a new country.”
Despite these challenges, she notes, when compared to their non-Latin peers, Latino residents in the U.S. maintain a keen sense of resilience and optimism.
“It has been my experience both personally and professionally that persons from Latin countries remain vigilant and optimistic of their future within the United States,” agrees Jack S. Monell, PhD, MSW, assistant professor of Justice Studies at NC-based Winston-Salem State University. “As with most Latin countries, there is a strong sense of resolve that exists within its respective people.”
As immigrants, Monell says, this acute resolve is highlighted when faced with the myriad challenges of coming to a new country.
“In the end, outside of helping relatives in their native countries, most Latin Americans pursue American lifestyles as the opportunities are limitless, compared to their native countries,” he notes. “This has not been more apparent than seeing the increased numbers of second generation Latinos pursuing secondary educational degrees. Though we see various differences between 1st and second generations, the level of optimism that brought their families here initially still remains quite high.”
This ability to optimistically face challenges brings to mind an unexpected Gallup finding that more money or a higher income does not guarantee greater happiness. While Panama, a leader in positivity, comes in 90th for GDP per capita, Singapore, among the least positive, ranks fifth.
Raised by Dominican parents in the Bronx, Bautista says her family struggled with limited financial means, and lived in New York City Public Housing “surrounded by violence and drugs.”
These circumstances, she contends, did not discourage her parents "from raising five optimistic, positive, and goal-oriented children.”
“My father's comic relief to every situation (that may not have been so comical) coupled with the zeal for life made a significant impact,” Bautista maintains.
“Dominicans are not alone in that regard,” she concludes. “While each Latin American country has their individual traits collectively as a people we share rich cultures full of great food, great music and of course great dancing!”
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