Happiness has a greater impact on a person’s giving than their wealth, according to the results of a worldwide study on charitable behavior.
The World Giving Index, published Wednesday by the Charities Aid Foundation, was compiled from Gallup surveys conducted in 153 countries.
The surveys asked people, over 15 years of age, whether they had given money to charity or volunteered in the last month, and to rank how happy they were with life on a scale of one to ten.
Overall, 20 percent of the world’s population had volunteered time in the month prior to interview, 30 percent had given money to charity, and 45 percent had helped a stranger.
Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. came out on top for overall giving, while the U.K. came in at eighth place. The U.K. remains one of the top overall givers in Europe, coming behind only Switzerland and the Netherlands.
In the U.S., 60 percent reported giving money to charity in the last month, 39 percent said they gave their time and 65 percent said they helped a stranger.
Americans were among the more happier people, with a wellbeing score of 7.2 out of 10.
The U.K. was also one of the top givers in terms of money, with 73 percent of the country having given to charity but it lagged behind in terms of happiness, with an average wellbeing score of 5.6, just slightly above the global average of 5.4.
The wellbeing score was determined from responses to this question: “Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to ten at the top. Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you, and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time, assuming that the higher the step the better you feel about your life, and the lower the step the worse you feel about it? Which step comes closest to the way you feel?”
The report showed that there are correlations between the percentage of people giving and GDP as well as age, but Charities Aid Foundation concluded, "It would be reasonable to conclude that giving is more an emotional act than a rational one."
Malta was found to be the most generous country in the world when it came to money, with 83 percent of the population having given to charity. The people in Turkmenistan were found to be the most generous with their time, with 61 percent of people saying they had volunteered, while Liberians topped the list for helping a stranger, at 76 percent.
Richard Harrison, director of Research at U.K.-based CAF, said: “We have always thought of ourselves as a charitable nation and now for the first time we can see how charitable we are compared to the rest of the world."
“Donating money to charity is something that is traditionally seen as being driven by how wealthy a person is," he continued. "However, it is clear that happiness plays an important role in influencing whether people give.
“The findings suggest a positive cycle where one person gives to charity, the charity improves the happiness of the individuals they support and they in turn are more likely to give.”