Year after year, a survey of close to 55,000 people around the world has found that the happiest people on the planet can be found in Fiji.
The island nation has topped Gallup International’s annual poll at least four times, with 92% of locals reporting in 2018 that they were either ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ – which is especially impressive when you consider the fact that Fiji is still a developing country.
So what’s the magic formula for contentment? Some cursory research suggests Fiji has a combination of factors that work together to create happiness for its residents.
The scenery. Fiji is a lush, tropical paradise with beautiful, sandy beaches, coral reefs and year-round temperate weather – the average temp is a balmy 25 degrees Celcius. It’s a tropical paradise; what’s not to love?
The culture. Deeply family-oriented, most people who grow up in Fiji go on to live close to where they were raised. Childcare responsibilities and care for the elderly are shared amongst the community. The saying ‘it takes a village’ really applies here.
The food. Fiji’s rich, volcanic soil is the perfect planting ground for its abundant crops of tropical favourites including bananas, coconuts and pineapples. Fishing is a staple industry, and the healthy local cuisine is based around fresh produce and seafood.
Kava. This muddy-looking beverage, made from the ground-up roots of the plant Piper methysticum, is more widely drunk in Fiji than beer. Known locally as ‘Yaqona’, it’s drunk ceremonially and recreationally by men and women from all walks of life and is said to bring a sense of inner calm and tranquility with none of the unpleasant side effects that other intoxicants can leave you with.
Here in Australia, kava is a controlled substance, meaning its use and sale is strictly monitored by the government. Nonetheless, it can be bought over the counter as a supplement from pharmacies such as Chemist Warehouse.
Fiji Kava is the latest entrant to the market, marketing a range of kava products with a raft of research to back them up.
Professor Jerome Sarris, scientific advisor to Fiji Kava, conducted a double-blind, placebo controlled, clinical trial to test whether the earthy-tasting drink had any legitimate effect on adults’ anxiety levels, and the results were eye-opening.
Sarris and his colleagues found that taking 250mg of kavalactones, the active ingredient in kava, significantly reduced anxiety over a three-week period.
Later, a follow-up study of patients diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder found that kava significantly reduced their anxiety compared to placebo.
“Regular kava drinkers tend to report feelings of physical and mental relaxation,” Prof Sarris told Yahoo Lifestyle. “Some may experience a boost in mood, and report feeling their senses are heightened.”
Having tried kava myself both in its traditional form, ie a swig of muddy-tasting water, and in the medicinal version, I will say there’s less atmosphere in taking a plain capsule than there is in a proper kava ceremony.
Aside from that, though, I found I did seem to experience a lessening of my stress and anxiety. How much of that is placebo I can’t be sure, and I obviously can’t say whether it’ll work for anyone else.
Now that I’m home, though, and I don’t have the Fijian sun, sea, or seafood available to me at the drop of a hat, I’m going to keep the Fiji Kava habit going!
This journalist travelled to Fiji as a guest of Fiji Kava.