A recent study in Psychological Science takes a global look at the quest for meaning, analyzing data from the Gallup World Poll to determine where people feel meaning, and how they found it. The survey data comes from 132 countries in 2007—the researchers specifically looked at self-reported meaning in life, religiosity, fertility rates, GDP, and suicide rates (from the World Health Organization).
Previous research has shown that wealthy countries typically rank higher on life satisfaction, which is not the same as meaning. Satisfaction has to do with “objective living conditions,” the researchers say, which is why wealthy countries with relatively stable economies and political conditions rank higher. But meaning is more subjective.
The Gallup data showed that countries with lower GDPs ranked higher for meaning. Toward the top were Sierra Leone, Togo, Laos, and Senegal, all of which were in the bottom 50 countries in the world for gross domestic product per capita in 2012, according to the International Monetary Fund. Poorer countries also had lower suicide rates."