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Explore the most charitable nations in the world

Philanthropic efforts are meant to help the less fortunate, but the benefits of being charitable also extend to those doing the giving. The National Institutes of Health found research participants who chose to donate a portion of the $100 they were provided enjoyed activated pleasure centers in the brain. Being charitable also can motivate others to give, including children who realize the benefits of philanthropy.

Another benefit of being generous is that it can recharge a person's life for the better. Donating time or money can create opportunities to meet new people who support the same causes. This may be the driving force behind countries around the world that have established themselves as the most giving per capita.

The CAF World Giving Index routinely ranks the most charitable nations. The rankings are based on data from Gallup and Charities Aid Foundation. Individuals may find it interesting that philanthropy is not directly related to material wealth. Only five of the countries in the index are members of the G20, a forum of the world's largest economies. In fact, many less affluent places hold top positions in the rankings. The WGI ranks the nations on their propensity to help a stranger, donate money and volunteer time. These percentages are factored together to provide a WGI score and ranking. Here's how the nations measured up for the most recent year of reporting.

20. Germany

19. Thailand

18. Kyrgyzstan

17. Bhutan

16. Guatemala

15. Norway

14. United Arab Emirates

13. Bahrain

12. Malta

11. Kenya

10. Malaysia

9. Ireland

8. Sri Lanka

7. Netherlands

6. United Kingdom

5. Australia

4. Canada

3. New Zealand

2. United States

1. Myanmar

The United States falls to second place this year thanks to a 5 percent decrease in financial donations (the United States is 12th in the world for charitable donations). However, a very high proportion of the American population (76 percent) helps strangers. For the third year in a row, Myanmar topped the WGI. Most people in the country are devout Theravada Buddhists, and charitable giving is integral to their religion. While donations tend to be small, many give daily, with 92 percent of the population making charitable donations in 2014.

Many people around the world engage in charitable giving.