Venezuela’s food shortages, rampant crime and hyperinflation are taking their toll. According to the 2017 World Happiness Report released Monday, Venezuelans are getting grumpier faster than any country on the planet.
The plummeting numbers come even after President Nicolás Maduro in 2013 created the “Vice Ministry of Supreme Happiness for the Socialist People” to try to improve the national mood.
Comparing the periods 2005-2007 to 2014-2016, the study found that Venezuelan’s level of contentment fell faster than any of the 126 countries studied, including Central African Republic, Botswana and Greece.
And while Venezuela did see the biggest drop, it’s not the region’s surliest country. That dubious distinction belongs to Haiti (ranked 145 out 155). Venezuela, by contrast, came in at No. 82, but it was down from No. 44 in the 2016 study.
Venezuela isn’t the region’s only country trying to put the weight of the state behind increasing happiness.
In 2013, Ecuador inaugurated a cabinet-level post for “Good Living” or “Well-being.”
However, that small Andean nation in 2017 saw its levels of happiness grow more than any other nation except Nicaragua, Latvia and Sierra Leone. Overall, Ecuador ranked No. 44 in general happiness, up from 51 in 2016.
Costa Rica is the hemisphere’s happiest country (No. 12), followed by the United States (No. 14), Chile (No. 20), Brazil (No. 22), Argentina (No. 24) and Mexico (No. 25).
The influential report was first released in 2012 under the auspices of the United Nations. Among the factors that it plugs into its happiness equation are GDP per capita, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices and generosity.
Once relegated to bumper stickers, songs and a line in the U.S. Constitution, happiness has become a serious subject. Most of the world’s top universities, the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are all researching the issue.
“Happiness is increasingly considered the proper measure of social progress,” the 2017 report explained, “and the goal of public policy.”