The Happiest Countries In The World (On Instagram)

Which cities and countries around the world crack a smile the most in their photos?

Jetpac is a clever app that analyzes Instagram photos to create city guides. By identifying markers like how much lipstick people are wearing, or the number of mustaches showing, it rates places as, say, “bars women love” or “hipster hangouts” (a mustache indicating hipsterism in some cities).


Now, Jetpac has turned its technology to happiness. Crunching through 150 million images, and awarding “smile scores” based on the incidence and strength of smiling, it gives us a ranking of the world’s happiest places. You may be surprised by the results.

Latin America, with a score of 51.5, is the happiest continent. Brazil (60.5) is its happiest country; Argentina (30.0) its least happy. North America is next, with Nicaragua (59.4) first and the U.S. Virgin Islands (19.2) the grumpiest. Asia comes in least happy among continents, with Japan achieving a smile score of 9.8 (why the gloomy faces, Tokyo?).

The United States has a smile score of 29.8, putting it behind Guatemala (42) and El Salvador (36.2) in the smiling stakes. Macedonia is Europe’s happiest country with a score of 40.1. None of its biggest countries, like Germany or Spain, make the top-10 list.

Jetpac previously analyzed just U.S. cities, finding that Saint Louis, Kansas City, and Columbus, Ohio, are the happiest cities in this nation.

Of course, analyzing pictures on social media isn’t particularly scientific. The results could just show, for example, how happy people were when they were Instagraming in bars–not necessarily how happy they are, per se. And there are cultural differences as to whether people smile in photos in the first place. There are many other ways of assessing happiness, such as surveys or analyzing immigration flows, that may give a more rounded picture. Still, if you want a quick take on happiness, a smile may be as good an indicator as any.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.