A researcher explains why Panamanians are the happiest people in the world


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An eternal optimist, Liu-Yue built two social enterprises to help make the world a better place. Liu-Yue co-founded Oxstones Investment Club a searchable content platform and business tools for knowledge sharing and financial education. Oxstones.com also provides investors with direct access to U.S. commercial real estate opportunities and other alternative investments. In addition, Liu-Yue also co-founded Cute Brands a cause-oriented character brand management and brand licensing company that creates social awareness on global issues and societal challenges through character creations. Prior to his entrepreneurial endeavors, Liu-Yue worked as an Executive Associate at M&T Bank in the Structured Real Estate Finance Group where he worked with senior management on multiple bank-wide risk management projects. He also had a dual role as a commercial banker advising UHNWIs and family offices on investments, credit, and banking needs while focused on residential CRE, infrastructure development, and affordable housing projects. Prior to M&T, he held a number of positions in Latin American equities and bonds investment groups at SBC Warburg Dillon Read (Swiss Bank), OFFITBANK (the wealth management division of Wachovia Bank), and in small cap equities at Steinberg Priest Capital Management (family office). Liu-Yue has an MBA specializing in investment management and strategy from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Marketing from Stern School of Business at NYU. He also completed graduate studies in international management at the University of Oxford, Trinity College.

By Matthew DeBord, Business Insider,

Gallup recently published its Gallup-Healthways State of Global Well-Being: “2014 Country Well-Being Rankings” report.

For the second year in a row, Panama came out on top of the rankings, with the highest score overall.

“The Global Well-Being Index measures well-being across five elements (purpose, social, financial, community and physical) and individual responses are categorized as thriving, struggling or suffering….,” the report’s authors wrote. “Our analysis ranks countries based on the percentage of the population that is thriving in three or more elements of well-being.”

Panama “leads all other countries in well-being, with 53% of its residents thriving in three or more elements,” Gallup reported. “Panama is also the highest country for purpose (60%) and physical well-being (52%).”

But Panama’s repeat isn’t the whole story. In fact, seven of the ten “highest well-being countries,” as defined by Gallup, are in Latin America.

For perspective, the US dropped to 23rd place in 2014, from 12th in 2013. Afghanistan ranked last in the report, at 145.


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(Andy Kierz)

We were curious about why Latin Americans fared so well in terms of their well-being, so we checked in with Dan Witters, Gallup-Healthways Research Director, to get some insight.

“It’s a culture of positive outlook,” he said. “It permeates Latin America.”

He added: “There are some pretty poor countries there, characterized by many decades of civil strife, human rights abuses, and outright civil war — yet people maintain pretty impressive levels of objective well-being. For those of us who spend all of time in well-being measurement, it was no surprise to see Latin American countries in there.”

For all of 2014, Gallup’s researchers interviewed 146,000 adults in 145 countries to obtain its data.

“Our research shows that people with higher well-being have higher productivity, lower healthcare costs, are more resilient in the face of challenges and are more likely to contribute to the success of their organizations and communities,” the authors wrote.


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(Business Insider/Andy Kiersz, data from Gallup-Healthways)

Money is a factor in well-being, but as Witters noted, it’s only important up to a point. This is backed up by a significant amount of research that has been conducted over the past fours decades, under the rubric of “happiness economics,” a field that has gained increasing respect in the academic world after being pioneered in the 1970s by Richard Easterlin, who is now at the University of Southern California.

In the US for example, happiness peaks at about $75,000 in annual income and then doesn’t climb higher. And if you’re already rich, you have to get much, much richer to move up the happiness scale.

According to Witter, “negative affect,” or the tendency to view one’s well-being as limited, bottoms out at $75,000. And unfortunately, stress can start to increase again if you move beyond that income bracket.

In Panama, the ability to be optimistic about finding employment also moves the needle of well-being. Witter said that in the happiest country in the happiest overall region, Latin America, people report that it’s a good time to find a job.

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