Hey. How you been?
It’s a simple question, but it yields fascinating answers when asked on a global scale.
In 2018, US-based analytics company Gallup asked 151,000 people in 143 countries a series of questions about how they’d felt the day before. Were they angry or sad? Did they smile or laugh? Did they learn something new?
The results were illuminating.
While other studies, such as the World Happiness Report, focuses on variables such as income, health and social support, the annual Global Emotions Report is about how people reflect on their own lives — and the outcome is quite different.
Five of Gallup’s questions were about positive experiences. More than seven in 10 people worldwide said they experienced a lot of enjoyment (71%), felt well-rested (72%), smiled or laughed a lot (74%) and felt treated with respect (87%).
Paraguay, the little South American country with the chilled-out reputation, ranked highest worldwide for Positive Experiences, and has held this position since 2015.
Says the Gallup report, “As they do year after year, Latin American countries dominated the list of countries in 2018 where adults reported feeling a lot of positive emotions each day. The high percentages reporting positive experiences in Latin America at least partly reflect the cultural tendency in the region to focus on life’s positives.”
The Asian country of Indonesia was the only outlier. After Paraguay, the other most positive countries, in order, were Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Indonesia, Honduras, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Colombia.
Nigeria loves to smile
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, has the third-largest youth population in the world. More than 90 million of its 186 million inhabitants are aged under 18.
Perhaps this social, family-oriented environment is why Nigerians were most likely to have said they’d smiled or laughed a lot the day before, with more than nine in 10 giving a positive answer.
Meanwhile, Mongolia is the country that’s got tranquility locked down, with 86% saying they felt well-rested.
Maybe it’s having all those steppes, lakes, canyons and sand dunes to one’s self; the population density is just two people per square kilometer, making it pretty easy to get away from it all.
Less than half of people worldwide (49%) said they learned or did something interesting the day before the interview.
So if you want to live a fulfilled life of of fresh experiences, moving to El Salvador, Panama or Guatemala is your best bet, since about three-quarters of these countries’ respondents reported positive self-development.
West African countries Senegal and Niger were close behind, with 73% and 72% respectively.
Azerbaijan is a-okay
The survey posed five questions to the interviewees relating to negative experiences: physical pain, worry, sadness, stress and anger.
Gallup notes that “countries with the lowest negative scores do not necessarily have the highest positive scores, “adding that “results on this index are related to country of origin, suggesting that cultural bias exists in how people answer these questions.”
So while Sweden — a top-ranking fixture in other world happiness lists — is fourth-lowest for negative experiences, it’s not No. 1.
The top two slots go to Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan, two Silk Road countries which may not be on your global radar, but appear to be doing just fine as they are.
In fact, if it’s stress you’re looking to avoid, a ‘Stan is your only man.
In Kyrgystan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, more than 86% of interviewees reported enjoying a stress-free yesterday.
Estonia was the least angry and Vietnam was the least likely to have experienced physical pain.
Chad tops Negative Experience Index
Globally, more than one in three people said they experienced a lot of worry (39%) or stress (35%), and three in 10 experienced a lot of physical pain (31%). At least one in five experienced sadness (24%) or anger (22%).
“While overall stress levels dropped two percentage points from the previous year, anger increased by two points — hitting a new high,” reports Gallup. “Worry and sadness, which were already at record levels, each increased by one point from the previous year.”
The Central African country of Chad, which became an oil-producing nation in 2003 but is currently troubled by political instability and violence, topped the Negative Experience Index for the first time.
“The country’s overall score at least partly reflects the violence, displacement and the collapse of basic services in parts of Chad that have affected thousands of families,” says Gallup. “In 2018, more than seven in 10 Chadians (72%) said they struggled to afford food at some point in the past year.”
For the second year in a row, Afghanistan interviewees were the least likely to report positive experiences, with its score dropping five points to reach a record low.
Gallup comments that the further decline in this conflict-ridden nation “reflects how devastating the negative cycle of poverty and violence has been to Afghans’ daily experiences.”
The report also provides a picture of the most and least emotional societies worldwide, says Gallup.
By averaging the “yes” responses to the 10 questions that make up the Positive and Negative Experience Indexes, they noted that six in 10 people in Niger, the Philippines, Liberia and Ecuador reported feeling strong emotions on the day before the interview.
“Countries in the sphere of the former Soviet Union were at the other end of the spectrum,” says Gallup. ” In Azerbaijan, Belarus and Latvia, fewer than four in 10 residents reported experiencing any of these feelings.” Belarus, with a low of 34%, was most unflappable of all.(Maureen O’Hare)