For the second time in a row, Panama ranked first in an annual worldwide survey of well-being. The United States was pushed ten places farther since the previous survey, while Afghanistan finished last.

The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index surveyed 146,000 people in 45 countries and tagged each country's level of well-being as "thriving," "struggling" and "suffering" according to the following five aspects: their sense of purpose, social relationships, financial situations, community involvement and physical health.

For 2014, 53 percent of residents of Panama were thriving in at least three aspects of well-being. According to Gallup-Healthways research director Dan Witters, residents of Panama tend to report going through emotions more positive than negative. Along with other Latin American countries, much of Panama experiences more laughter than stress. The country also had a growing economy and a stable political state in 2014. These may be a few reasons why Panama topped the survey yet again.

In the US, not much has changed with regard to well-being; however, a three-percent drop has pushed it from the twelfth spot in 2013 to the twenty-third spot in 2014. From 33 percent in 2013, only 30 percent of residents in the US are now thriving in at least three aspects of well-being.

At the very bottom of the list of the 45 surveyed countries, zero percent of residents in Afghanistan were thriving in at least three aspects of well-being in 2014.

Witters also mentions the possibility of misinterpretation of the survey questions. The researchers considered cultural reasons to be a factor affecting results of the survey, and have taken measures to ensure that the survey questions are least likely misinterpreted. A close watch over translations, for example, ensured that the questions were still close to their original meanings when translated.

Seeing the participants' facial reactions in face-to-face interviews or hearing their voices over the phone were also more reliable than a simple paper survey.

Witters also stresses that a country's financial wellness may raise its overall level of well-being, but not in all cases. Guatemala is a poor country, but made it to the top 10 list in 2014.

Next to Panama and completing the top 10 list are Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Belize, Chile, Denmark, Guatemala, Austria and Mexico. On the other hand, struggling at the bottom 10 after Afghanistan are Bhutan, Cameroon, Togo, Tunisia, Congo Kinshasa, Ivory Coast, Benin, Haiti and Ghana.

Photo: jaimezarate1 | Flickr

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