Happiest and saddest countries

South Africans are struggling and suffering more than other African nations when it comes to minding their own physical, social and financial well-being, according to a new report.

The Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index (Global Well-Being Index) is a global barometer of individuals’ perceptions of their own well-being.

The results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews on the Gallup World Poll, from a random sample of approximately 133,000 adults, aged 15 and older, living in 135 countries and areas in 2013.

The Index assesses five elements of well-being:

  • Purpose: Liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals;
  • Social: Having supportive relationships and love in your life;
  • Financial: Managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security;
  • Community: Liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community;
  • Physical: Having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.

Globally, only 17% of the population are thriving in three or more elements.

The highest percentage of thriving is found in community well-being, with 26% of survey respondents falling into this category. Survey respondents are least likely to be thriving in purpose well-being, at 18%.

Regionally, the Americas is the most thriving area in the world, with 33% of people from the region indicating they are thriving in three or more elements.

Conversely, sub-Saharan Africa is the region of the world that is suffering the most, with only 9% respondents from the region thriving.

Top 10 thriving countries

# Country % Thriving
1 Panama 61%
2 Consta Rica 44%
3 Denmark 40%
4 Austria 39%
5 Brazil 39%
6 Uruguay 37%
7 El Salvador 37%
8 Sweden 36%
9 Guatemala 34%
10 Canada 34%

Top 10 suffering countries

# Country % Thriving
1 Syria 1%
2 Afghanistan 1%
3 Haiti 3%
4 DRC 5%
5 Chad 5%
6 Madagascar 6%
7 Uganda 6%
8 Benin 6%
9 Croatia 7%
10 Georgia 7%

South Africa

South Africans sampled in the index showed that only 7% of the country are actually thriving in three or more of the categories covered by Gallum – just below the regional average of 9%, and far below the global average of 17%.

With high rates on unemployment (over 25%), labour market struggles, and a severely slow economic performance, South Africa is ranks as one of the least thriving countries in the world.

Further, South Africa’s vast income disparities are clearly reflected in access to healthcare, and poorer residents are much more vulnerable to the country’s HIV and tuberculosis pandemics, the report said.

“These conditions help explain why, in most aspects, South Africans’ well-being results are similar to those among sub-Saharan Africans overall,” Gallup said.

South Africa’s well-being

Category Thriving Struggling Suffering Regional Thriving Global Thriving
Community 14% 59% 28% 18% 26%
Financial 13% 52% 35% 9% 25%
Purpose 12% 35% 53% 15% 18%
Social 11% 46% 42% 16% 23%
Physical 11% 71% 17% 20% 24%

Specifically, South Africans thrive less than in all but one of the categories, compared to the regional average. The country’s well-being compares even worse to the global average.

It’s only when it comes to financial well-being that South Africans are better off than the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, though Gallum points out that this it only the employed population that are “somewhat more” likely to be thriving, financially.

“[This] underscores the idea that growth in Africa’s second-largest economy is not benefiting most segments of the population,” Gallum said.

According to the index, South African’s are outright suffering in terms of purpose (53% of the population) and social well-being (42%), while the bulk of responses indicated that they were struggling across all categories.

Well-being in Africa

# Country % Thriving
1 Ethiopia 15%
2 Malawi 13%
2 Congo 13%
4 Ghana 12%
4 Angola 12%
4 Rwanda 12%
7 Sierra Leone 11%
7 Tunisia 11%
9 Niger 10%
9 Nigeria 10%
9 Egypt 10%
10 Sub-Saharan Africa 9%
11 Zimbabwe 8%
12 Gabon 7%
12 South Africa 7%
12 Kenya 7%
12 Botswana 7%
12 Cameroon 7%
19 Madagascar 6%
19 Uganda 6%
20 Chad 5%
20 DRC 5%

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Happiest and saddest countries