June 24, 2015 / 4:10 AM / 5 years ago

Panama tops, U.S. falls in well-being ranking: Gallup

(Reuters) - Residents of Panama topped an annual ranking of well-being released on Wednesday, while Afghanistan ranked last and the United States took a tumble.

Children play under the full moon on Achutupu Island in the Guna Yala region, Panama May 2, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

The United States ranked 23rd of 145 countries, territories and areas tracked by the Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index, down from 12th place a year earlier.

The decline reflected fewer people reporting they were satisfied with their feelings of community, including safety, as well as reporting less positive social ties, said Dan Witters, who compiled the index.

The addition of 11 more countries and areas in 2014’s index also contributed to the United States’ lower ranking, Witters said.

Panama led the world in overall well-being for the second year straight, Gallup said, with 53 percent of residents thriving in three or more areas of well-being, measures that include a person’s sense of purpose, financial well-being and physical health.

“People in Panama will report a lot of daily happiness, a lot of daily smiling and laughter, and a lot of daily enjoyment without a lot of stress and worry,” Witters said.

Afghanistan ranked the lowest in overall well-being in 2014, with zero percent of residents considered thriving in well-being areas.

The index was based on interviews with more than 146,000 people aged 15 and older, in 145 countries, territories and areas in 2014. Puerto Rico and Northern Cyprus are among the territories and areas that are not countries that were included in the index.

Residents of the Americas region were the most likely to be thriving in well-being and residents in sub-Saharan Africa were the least likely, the index found.

Latin American countries topped the list, making up seven of the top 10 countries.

Europe led the world in financial well-being, Gallup said.

Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Eric Beech

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