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Not A Very Happy Place

Tajik children riding a donkey.
Tajik children riding a donkey.
Not a single Central Asian nation is among the ten of the happiest countries in the world.

Northern European countries -- Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden -- top Gallup's World Poll (GWP) of the happiest countries.

According to the poll, Turkmenistan, which came in 18th place on the GWP list, is the happiest Central Asian nation. Surprisingly, it ranked above wealthier Western countries like Italy, Germany, and France.

Apparently happiness isn't related to civil liberties.

GWP researchers say they "measured" people's happiness by asking respondents in 155 countries to reflect on their overall satisfaction with their lives, and ranked their answers using a "life evaluation" score from 1 to 10. Respondents were also asked about their "daily experiences" -- including whether they felt well-rested, respected, and free of pain and intellectually engaged.

Assessing the poll, writes that "by and large, rich countries are happier." But if this is so, how to explain Kazakhstan -- the richest country in Central Asia -- being ranked 70th in the happy index, far below the poverty-stricken Malawi (63rd).

Uzbekistan, which is ranked 85th, could console itself with the fact that came in just a few places behind wealthy Japan (81st).

The poll found Tajikistan, which came in 130th, to be the least happy country in Central Asia, worse than even its war-torn neighbor, Afghanistan (115th). Just another reason to get depressed.

-- Farangis Najibullah