Estonians - very few positive emotions or no emotions at all?

A woman smiles as she warms herself around a fire in her home at Tilmi village in the High Atlas region of Morocco. (Reuters/Scanpix)
3/25/2015 1:27 PM
Category: Society

The recently published Gallup's Positive Experience Index found that the happiest people on the planet might be Latin Americans. Contrary to the ever-popular stereotype of Estonians beaming with positive emotions, Estonia didn't make it to the top 10.

The index, published shortly before the International Day of Happiness on March 20, aimed to determine the countries where the highest and lowest percentages of people are experiencing positive emotions daily.

On the top spot is Paraguay, with Positive Experience Index (PEI) score of 89, followed by Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras. The next five places are also occupied by Latin American countries. The highest placed European country Switzerland is tied for 11 with the Philippines, Singapore and Uruguay.

Estonia can be found in the modest 94th position (PEI score 64), out of 143 surveyed countries. Like with sports, it can take comfort in the fact that its eternal Baltic rivals are even worse off. Lithuania, according to the poll, is one of the unhappiest nations in the world, on par with Afghanistan (PEI score 55), and below conflict-ridden South Sudan and Ukraine, and Ebola-stricken Liberia.

The PEI score was derived from positive responses that around 1,000 adults from each country gave to the following questions:

  • Did you feel well-rested yesterday?
  • Were you treated with respect all day yesterday?
  • Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?
  • Did you learn or do something interesting yesterday?
  • Did you experience the following feelings (list not included) a lot of the day yesterday? How about enjoyment?

However, as the organizers point out, it must be taken into account that low positive emotions do not necessarily mean high negative emotions.

"For example, people in the former Soviet Union countries typically report some of the lowest positive emotions in the world; however, they also report some of the lowest negative emotions in the world. Gallup has previously reported that people in this region simply don't report many emotions at all," they said. An earlier survey on emotions revealed Lithuanian to be the joint second least emotional country in the world along with Georgia and behind Singapore.

PEI was designed to measure the things GDP cannot quantify. The results clearly show that money isn't everything. Guatemala, for instance, one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 118th in terms of GDP per capita, ties for second when it comes to positive emotions in people's daily life.

Things such as respect, laughing and smiling a lot, and learning or doing something interesting are much bigger drivers of positive emotions. Freedom, social capital and charitable giving too make life more worthwhile.

M. Oll

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