There is a stereotypical saying that some gringos will put out there regarding how “the locals seem so much happier while living in deep shit poverty!”
OK – they don’t phrase it like that but they say something similar usually.
Where the idea being that “it’s so crazy how people are so happy here while not having much!”
It’s a topic I wrote here.
And, for the most part, I have always pushed back a little bit against the idea because these folks don’t have a single idea in their heads what it’s like to live like them.
They don’t really know if they are happy or not.
Who the hell wants to live in poverty for example?
And, having lived or worked in less than ideal neighborhoods plenty of times in Latin America, I can say that folks don’t genuinely come across as “happier.”
They have their own problems usually typical of someone in a poor area anywhere in the world.
Having said that, one could make the argument that “they must be happier” when you look at suicide statistics.
Which, to be fair, sounds like an honest point.
If a country has more suicide, then it must not be a very happy place.
Have you met any happy people committing suicide?
I sure haven’t!
So I do have to acknowledge the argument.
For, as you can see in these maps here, you have an odd relationship going on when you compare the two.
In the first map here, we can see which countries are supposedly “happier” than others with a country like Finland being number 1 while a country like Venezuela is number 105.
In the second map here, we can see which countries have more suicide going on with Finland being number 26 and Venezuela being number 138.
Now, before we get started, obviously know that a country like Venezuela could potentially misreport the numbers intentionally or not have the proper resources to classify each suicide as an actual suicide.
It is a poorer country. Not sure if those are real issues that impact their suicide statistics but just throwing it out there.
But, having said that, you do see how other relatively poorer countries report higher happiness and less suicide on average compared to the richer and more developed countries.
Second, obviously any study on which country is “happier” is maybe not going to always have the best methodology. I’ve seen different studies come out with different countries at the top for happiness and it can perhaps be harder to quantify happiness versus the amount of suicides happening.
Third, as you can see here, there is a clear correlation between how happy a country is and GDP per person but that only goes up to a point. The logic being that (from my understanding), once you have enough money for survival, any extra money isn’t going to necessarily make you happier.
"The headline result is clear: the richer the country, on average, the higher the level of self-reported happiness. The simple correlation suggests that doubling GDP per person lifts life satisfaction by about 0.7 points."
Once you don’t have to worry about how to put food on the table or get medicine for your sick kids, then the stress of being poor isn’t there as commonly and doesn’t impact your happiness as much.
So a country that is significantly wealthier is not going to necessarily be significantly happier than another country if the people in the second country have what they need to survive on average.
At any rate, beyond all of that, I do think there are some other things one could say about why MAYBE people sometimes report being happier on average in lesser developed countries versus more developed ones.
Let’s get to some of my theories
My Theories on Happiness in Latin America
First, one thing I’ve noticed that the topic of mental health and suicide is more taboo in Latin America.
This is an extension on a previous theory I mentioned before about numbers not being reported accurately regarding suicide down here in Latin America.
While these topics can be taboo back home, I find most Americans – ESPECIALLY younger Americans – to be more open to sharing every mental health issue they had since kindergarten.
Some might argue that younger Americans even go too far in sharing all their little details or that they make shit up.
Regardless of how you feel about it, mental health is something to take seriously in general and, only from what I’ve noticed, Latin America does tend to be “a few years behind the times” compared to other countries like the US on the matter.
The only country that I noticed where this might not be as true is Argentina where, as you can see here, supposedly Argentina has more normalized seeing a professional on the regular for mental health.
"In therapy? In Argentina, it's the norm"
It’s something I remember when I was spending months there.
Anyway, outside of Argentina, I can only say my general experience has been that people don’t take mental health as seriously down here and so that might influence reporting on statistics regarding suicide.
If it’s not taken as seriously, is it possible for the responsible agencies to properly investigate and declare someone’s death as suicide?
There’s a good film on this subject called “El Silencio de Las Moscas” as you can see here.
And, on top of that, would religious feelings from family members regarding what happened influence how things are reported?
I genuinely don’t know. Only reporting what makes sense to me as a possible theory.
Second, as you can see here, there is a clear correlation between people with higher IQs and being more likely to be depressed.
"Higher IQ was associated with a greater risk of a depression diagnosis (OR 1.11)."
And, as you can see here, every Latin American country has an average IQ lower than countries in US, Canada and most European and Asian countries
Now, I am not calling everyone in Latin America retarded.
I would never do that as you can see here.
I just like to report random information for no reason. Nothing to see here.
Third, another factor that comes to mind is family.
Now, to be fair, my life experience is probably a little more extreme in this regard because I’d say that my family is considerably less “in contact” with each other than your typical family in the US.
Having said that, families in other countries like the US do tend to be “more separate” and “kick out the kids at a younger age” versus what you typically see in Latin America.
I’d imagine that has an impact on happiness.
Fourth, some would say that the climate and extra sun in Venezuela versus Norway would make a big difference in happiness.
It probably helps.
I remember my days living in the Midwest and the winter having more depressing days than the summer.
Fifth, another thing I wonder about has to do with human relations.
In a more extreme example like Japan, you have less people having sex supposedly and even being in relationships. Lots of loneliness as you can see here.
Generally speaking, countries that are lesser developed have (not always but usually) hotter people with less fat folks so your average person has more options to fuck and date.
And, at least compared to Norway, perhaps people are “less cold.”
I never liked so much the idea of “foreigners being cold and Latinos being warm” as I wrote here but, to some degree depending on the nationality in question, it might be true.
But it also depends on where we come form and where we go, no?
People in Iowa seem to be pretty warm and people in Argentina less so.
Anyway, I’ll throw that idea out there because I know others would bring it up.
I’m not entirely in agreement with it in every circumstance but I can see how it could be important depending on the individual situation.
Sixth, as you can see here, people who don’t have kids are more likely to kill themselves or die earlier.
They might not always be happier or be good parents but they do tend to not kill themselves as much.
And, as you can see here, people in Latin America generally have more kids on average versus places like Norway.
Though, to be fair, each day this factor becomes less relevant as plenty of people in the current generation are not having kids but it also depends on which Latin country you speak of.
Seventh, drinking habits could be a thing to consider also that I read online. I have absolutely no idea if this factor is true or not but I’m throwing it out there.
The idea being that people in some countries like Norway drink more at home while people in countries like Colombia or Venezuela drink more in groups.
Which sounds like a happier situation to you?
Situation 1: You are alone in your room late at night drinking vodka and listening to Russian Doomer Music (obviously the Finnish listen to Russian Doomer Music because Finnish Doomer Music sucks).
Situation 2: You are drinking with your friend Pablo and he invites you along to go fuck some whores in a whore house afterwards.
Probably the dude in situation 1 is sadder.
While the dude in Situation 2 might also be dealing with a dad who screamed at him or beat him up or something, at least he isn’t spending so much time thinking about it and is spending more of it fucking whores.
And – be it professional whores or Tinder whores – let me tell you that fucking a chick tends to make a man a little bit less depressed.
Just how these things work, I suppose.
Eighth, some might say that those in more developed countries have more free time to think about sad things and get depressed versus poor people in third world countries who have to work more to survive.
How many suicides happen in some indigenous village where you have to constantly be working on your hustle of subsistence farming?
Honestly, I have no idea.
I’m not an indigenous person working on subsistence farming but I guess I can kinda see the logic in that your time is more preoccupied with working and not thinking about sad things.
I guess it makes sense?
But, on the flip side, plenty of Americans in the US are working multiple jobs and are tired as fuck also.
Granted, the life experience of a single mother working 2 jobs (while keeping her preoccupied) is obviously different from a chick with multiple kids (but with a father and family to help care for them) and having to live in a rural village with no services while doing subsistence farming.
As extreme as that example is to compare the chick in the US too…
Still, maybe there is something to the idea of “if you got too much free time to think about your problems, you end up sadder.”
I honestly don’t know.
I can see it though.
So I’ll just throw it out there (especially considering that, among the folks I have met in Latin America over the years, their working schedules do seem to be heavier than folks I knew back home as I don’t tend to hang with fresas).
Anything to Add?
This was all mostly just shooting from the hip with some minor research to see if there’s any other ideas I’ve missed.
Perhaps you could say, to a degree, that people on average in Latin America are happier?
But obviously it depends on the country.
For example, as I wrote here, Uruguay is the suicide capital of Latin America and quite high when it comes to suicides on the world stage.
….But Uruguay is also a richer country than other Latin American countries.
Hmmm…..well shit – that odd correlation between being rich and wanting to kill yourself comes up again.
Though, as you can see here, they are apparently very happy also!
"Raul, Raul, why do you want to kill yourself, Raul?!"
"I'M SO HAPPY!!!!"
Anyway, if you got anything to add as to your own theories on all of this, drop a comment below.
I don’t got much to add but would enjoy hearing other comments – in agreement or disagreement with my theories here or even new theories.
And follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.