The Financial Express

2017 was rough for humanity: Study

| Updated: September 13, 2018 17:24:34

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Protests in Bangui, Central African Republic, in May. The country has been plagued by conflict for years.               –Photo: The New York Times Protests in Bangui, Central African Republic, in May. The country has been plagued by conflict for years. –Photo: The New York Times

In fact, humanity just had its gloomiest year in more than a decade, according to a new survey of the emotional lives of more than 154,000 people around the world.

More people reported negative experiences, defined as worry, stress, physical pain, anger or sadness, than at any point since 2005, when Gallup, the analytics and consulting company, introduced the survey, reports The New York Times.

“This is the first time that we’ve seen a really significant uptick in negative emotions,” said Julie Ray, the chief writer and editor of the report and survey, known as the Gallup World Poll. “It’s as high as we’ve ever measured it.”

The 2017 results, released on Wednesday, are based on interviews with adults in more than 145 countries around the world. Here are some of the findings.

A new high for feeling low

The increase in negative experiences around the world was driven largely by rising worry and stress, reports of each of which rose by two percentage points from 2016 to 2017.

 “When you’re talking about 154,000 interviews for the entire world, that’s actually a lot,” Ms. Ray said. “Those two points, that change, is a lot.”

Reports of physical pain and sadness each rose by one percentage point, also contributing to the global rise in negative experiences, while reports of anger were unchanged.

In all, well over a third of respondents told Gallup in 2017 that they had experienced a lot of worry or stress the day before taking the survey. Just under a third reported experiencing a lot of physical pain, while about a fifth said they had felt a lot of sadness or anger the day before.

Central African Republic

Negative experiences were highest in the Central African Republic, which has been plagued by internal conflict for years. Not only did the country unseat Iraq, which held that dubious distinction for four years running, but its 2017 negative experience score was also the highest ever recorded by Gallup.

Violence prevented the polling organization from reaching about 40 per cent of the country’s population, but among the people it could interview, about three in four reported experiencing either a lot of physical pain or a lot of worry the day before the survey.

Negative experiences have risen fast across the greater sub-Saharan region, with the negative experience index at its highest levels in a decade in 24 out of the 35 countries surveyed there. While no single trend can explain that shift, conflict and instability have created “growing health care crises” across the region, according to Gallup.

Such problems with health or with the ability to afford food are associated with higher negative scores, the organization found.

Keeping positive

Emotions are not zero sum. While negative experiences reached a new high last year, positive ones fell only slightly, to levels last seen in 2011 and 2012.

At least 70 per cent of those surveyed reported feeling a lot of joy, feeling well rested, feeling treated with respect, and smiling or laughing a lot the day before being interviewed.

Those four experiences, as well as whether an individual learned or did something interesting, make up the positive experience index. Less than half of adults, 46 per cent, reported learning or doing something interesting the day before being interviewed.

Latin American countries dominate

As in recent years, adults in Latin America had the most positive experiences, with Paraguay topping the list. Of the dozen countries with the highest scores, only Canada, Iceland, Indonesia and Uzbekistan are outside that region.

Latin America’s dominance year after year is at least partly explainable by culture: The one variable that predicted results on both positive and negative experience indexes was country of origin, suggesting that culture plays a role in how individuals experience their world, Gallup found.

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