For millions of people around the world, physical and social isolation are causing chronic loneliness.

As a result, many researchers today fear solitude could be the next big public health issue, cutting years off people's lives.

Perhaps people like Silvia Pablo have something to share with the world - and teach it.

The 21-year-old Guatemalan in no stranger to loneliness. She was born with spina bifida and was shut inside her mother's house for 10 years after her father left them.

But Pablo says her faith kept her going and helped her overcome her daily struggles. Today she has own wheelchair and works at a factory.

"I think my happiness comes from God," she says. "Yes, there are difficult times. But with God's help, we can overcome any obstacle or sad situation. We need to live the lives we're born into … and try to be happy through our faith."

And Pablo is not alone.

Despite high rates of violent crime, poverty and corruption, Guatemala is consistently in the top 10 of happiest countries in the world.

"Guatemala is often found near the top of the global list for inequality and violence; more than 50 per cent of the population lives in poverty and around 13 people are murdered every day," Al Jazeera's David Mercer said from Antigua.

"Yet some international polls report that people here are some of the happiest in the world."

'Resilience is key'

Psychologist Andres Pinto says that in addition to faith and family, resilience is key to helping people in the country fight off loneliness, anxiety and depression.

"Many Guatemalans have suffered a lot, and don't have much to lose," he says. "When they encounter problems they know they have to work hard to overcome them. Of course we're not all like this, but resilient people can teach us a lot."

But Pablo likes to put it a different way.

Happy people are not those who have the most, she says, but those who are most grateful for what they have. 

Source: Al Jazeera