How is the world feeling? According to Gallup's annual Global Emotions Report, people across the world are sadder and more stressed, marking a new high in the Negative Experiences Index. Gallup managing editor for world news Julie Ray joins the podcast to discuss where in the world these negative experiences have increased the most. Later, Dr. Carol Graham -- senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Gallup senior scientist -- talks about the drivers behind negative emotions and the importance of hope.
Below is a full transcript of the conversation, including time stamps. Full audio is posted above.
Mohamed Younis 00:01
For Gallup, I'm Mohamed Younis, and this is The Gallup Podcast. This week, we explore our annual Global Emotions Report and check in on how the world is feeling, literally. Julie Ray is the primary author of the Global Emotions Report. Julie, welcome back, ma'am.
Julie Ray 00:22
Thanks for having me.
Mohamed Younis 00:23
OK, so just to get something straight here, why don't we start with the basics of the report? How many countries does this cover? How many people were included in this year's report? Give us kind of the facts of the case.
Julie Ray 00:35
So the 2022 report that we're releasing is based on data that we collected in 2021. We've been asking questions about how people are feeling on a daily basis, negative and positive, basically since the world poll began in 2005, we've been asking these questions every year since. In 2021, we asked questions about people's experiences with anger, worry, stress, sadness, but also enjoyment, smiling, laughing a lot in 122 countries and areas, which is actually a slight increase from the number of countries that we asked in 2020. We talked to just shy of 127,000 adults, and those are people aged 15 and older, throughout 2021 and into early 2022.
Mohamed Younis 01:23
So Julie, what were the top findings this year?
Julie Ray 01:26
Well in 2021, the world became a slightly sadder, more worried and stressed-out place than it was the year before. And these negative experiences helped push Gallup's Negative Experience Index to yet another new high of 33 in 2021. So the takeaway is the world was even more negative than it was in 2020, and stress, worry and sadness hit new highs. But the only thing that didn't get worse, if there is one positive takeaway, is anger; that actually was down one percentage point. The other interesting thing is that on top of this increase in negative experiences, we saw positive experiences also declining, and that's for the first time in several years that we've seen that. Up until then, for the last three years, things have been really, really stable. But in 2021 people felt less well-rested than they did the year before, and fewer people experienced enjoyment the previous day. The other interesting thing that we found in 2021 that's in this year's report are our numbers out of Afghanistan, which we surveyed as the Taliban took over and as the U.S. pulled out in 2021. And maybe not surprisingly, Afghans were the least positive and the most negative population on the planet in 2021.
Mohamed Younis 02:48
So, a real turn towards the negative, especially an increase in those negative emotions -- Did you experience a lot of worry, stress, etcetera, the day before? Were there any regional differences that any region or countries particularly stick out to you as you look through the data and created this report?
Julie Ray 03:09
You know, a lot of them fit the typical patterns that we see. We see the most positive experiences generally in Latin America. But the countries that stood out in particular, and perhaps unsurprisingly, as, as you might expect, were Afghanistan and Lebanon, who, two countries that have been going through extreme turmoil politically, economically and from a security standpoint. Those numbers were some of the worst that we've seen in the history of us collecting data on these questions since 2005, so in the past 16 years.
Mohamed Younis 03:49
Of course, Lebanon going through a lot of pain, but really so is the world. It's really remarkable how negative things have really shifted in this latest edition. Before I let you go, Julie, did anything surprise you? You've looked at these data for years now.
Julie Ray 04:04
You know, the biggest surprise to me was actually the decline in positive experiences; those have been just so incredibly stable for so many years. So, of course, you know, we're going to be back in the field -- and we're already back in the field -- in 2022. And so that's definitely something we're going to need to be keeping our eyes on as we're collecting data this year and into next year.
Mohamed Younis 04:25
That's Julie Ray, primary author of the Gallup Global Emotions Report and managing editor for global research. Thanks for being with us, Julie.
Julie Ray 04:33
Mohamed Younis 04:34
Next, we delve into some of the larger implications of the report with none other than Dr. Carol Graham. She's a senior fellow and research director at the Brookings Institution, and we're also immensely proud to claim her as a Gallup senior scientist. Carol, welcome to the podcast.
Carol Graham 04:49
Thanks so much. And I'm proud to be a Gallup senior scientist.
Mohamed Younis 04:53
You've been studying wellbeing for quite a while. I love to ask people that have been doing that for most of their career. As the world now shifts to a much greater focus on wellbeing, what drew you to study people's wellbeing to begin with? How did you end up doing this?
Carol Graham 05:10
By mistake! No, seriously. I, I was, I was looking I'm, I started off my career as a development economist looking at poverty and inequality, particularly in poor places around the world. I'm from Peru. I grew up, my dad had an institute for malnourished infants there; he was a public health med M.D. in, at Hopkins, but also part Peruvian. My mother was Peruvian. So I grew up in a context where poverty and inequality was sort of part of life, and yet you worried about it. And at the time, when I was growing up, when we came to the U.S. I love Peru, so I wasn't necessarily happy, but I always thought of the U.S. as kind of very stable, very democratic. Everything worked. It was, you know, people didn't throw trash out of their cars and that was, you know, their and the economy seemed fine. And it's been a bit of a, you know, a bit of a change.
Carol Graham 06:09
But so I've actually spent the past eight years working in the U.S. more, not, not only, but more than, much more than before. But about 20 years ago, I was working on poverty and inequality in developing countries when there was a lot of debate over how bad globalization was for the poor. And yet the data I had, I had data following the same people over time for Peru, and there were some other similar data for other countries. But the data I had specifically for Peru, which followed people over time, showed immense, tremendous exits out of poverty for a large number of people. And so I thought, I really wonder how people think they're doing, given that everybody's protesting against globalization, if these people are coming out of poverty?
Carol Graham 06:57
And I did these surveys in collaboration with Richard Webb, who was then the former president of the World Bank, of the Central Bank of Peru and started their poverty mapping. And we asked people how their situation was compared to the past. And we had the data for, you know, the several observations over a decade. So we knew how they'd done objectively. And over half of the people who said they, who had done the best objectively said their situation was worse or a lot worse than before. Then a lot of poor urban -- rural people, for whom things hadn't really changed for better or for worse, said it was the same or better. So we thought maybe it was the day of the survey; Chile had beaten Peru in soccer, you know, whatever it could be. We repeated it and kept getting what I then called, "happy peasants and frustrated achievers." Then I got similar data for Russia and then eventually for China and I thought, something's going on here.
Carol Graham 07:54
And I was very lucky to be at Brookings at the time, like I am now; like I've been most of my career -- I haven't been other places -- but where people were really open to these findings. And they didn't just say it was measurement error in the income data that was my problem, but they really were interested in the psychology of this. And I had done my Ph -- just finished a Ph.D. dissertation on the coping strategies of the poor during hyperinflation and, and terrorism in Peru. And one of the things I always found remarkable in a, in addition to how sophisticated their coping strategies were, like, they knew whether they would change their salary or their wages each night into dollars or not. They knew what the exchange rate was; if there was gonna be a devaluation -- things that the average American would never think about, right.
Carol Graham 08:44
But the other thing that really struck me was how hopeful they were and how optimistic. And so it was kind of as much about the psychology of it as it was about the economic strategies. And people at Brookings were open to, you know, what was going on, trying to understand these findings. And I ended up working with great people that happened, George Akerlof happened to be there visiting for five years when Janet Yellen was at the Fed the first time. And other, other Brookings economists, as well as people like Danny Kahneman, who hadn't quite gotten the Nobel prize yet, came to discuss my first book. And, you know, it, people thought it was out there. I mean, I would get lots of questions like, "You work on what?" or "take happiness out of the title; nobody's going to take you seriously." And I didn't sell many books the first time. (I didn't take happiness out of the title either.)
Carol Graham 09:36
But anyway, I realized that we were onto something and that this nascent collaboration between economists and psychologists that I was privileged to be a part of at a pretty young age (Danny got the Nobel prize the next year, so I was pretty far from that), but that there was something really to this that was different and that we can answer questions that reveal preferences standard approaches don't answer very well -- particularly when people don't have the agency to make a choice, like very poor people or people who are discriminated against or also when behaviors were driven by addiction and self-control problems. And I first worked on obesity, as one example, in smoking, but now I've been working on deaths of despair in the United States.
Carol Graham 10:23
And again, wellbeing metrics tell you a very different story. You know, if people were choosing to purchase opioids because it was a rational, optimal preference, they wouldn't be in deep despair and committing suicide or dying of opioid overdoses. But we can measure those things with wellbeing metrics and, and have a way to understand people's behavior that rational, you know, income-based metric, you know, assumptions about rational decisions based on income-based metrics don't always work very well. And so I've, I've never turned back; I'm still interested in some of the very same things: poverty inequality, public health issues. I'm more focused on the United States because I'm pretty worried about what's going on here, but I'm obviously, I do both. And so that's a long answer to your question, but --
Mohamed Younis 11:16
But it's a great answer because, you know, we experience at Gallup as an organization that really has thought deeply about wellbeing and how to measure it and why it matters and how these metrics are different, really, than classic economic metrics. It's awesome to hear you mention Danny Kahneman. He's actually going to speak to some of us here next week for like a little internal thing, but so much of these folks, deaths of despair, Dr. Deaton and, and Dr. Anne Case. So many people have contributed to the science that now the public narrative is relying on to understand what the hell is happening to people's feelings in our world. One of the things in the report that really stood out this time was this rising negative experiences. A lot of the narrative around COVID has been, oh my God, negative experiences are out of control because of the pandemic. Your work, our data, a lot of this shows that that's totally not true. Tell us about the rise of negative emotions and also what do you think is driving it? What do you think is behind it?
Carol Graham 12:20
It's a big question, and I think COVID did produce some increase for sure, particularly in countries where social distancing wasn't possible, where the pandemic really -- like my native Peru, I think it was in 2020, had the highest percent of people with stress, because it was a terrible experience. People were dying right and left. But yet people have an amazing ability to cope, and I think, I think COVID per se is another factor in all of this. But as you say, these experiences have been -- negative experiences have been rising for about 10 years. They've also been rising for the young, which, there's been a lot of talk about how the young have suffered in particular from COVID, and how their depression and anxiety has gone up with the pandemic. But actually, it started way before that. Why is a big question.
Carol Graham 13:18
I guess I think about a number of things that could be sort of long-term driving factors, and one is changing labor markets and the changing nature of work. And so if you're young, you're entering the labor force at a very uncertain time. If you don't have a good quality education, you're kind of toast. You really don't have a lot of prospects for a good, stable job. You may be able to patch it together. You may be very lucky to be exceptionally creative and kind of do something really different and get by, and then the labor markets reward you very well.
Carol Graham 13:54
But if you're just, you know, the average person that wants to have a stable life and a family, you know, and you don't have a higher education, your odds are very low. Just quality of low-skilled jobs are going down; there's a lot of tech-driven growth that's crowding them out. The immigrants and trade tend to get the blame, but it really isn't that; those aren't the big structural factors. And in fact, everything we know in serious studies suggests that, at least in the U.S., immigrants do complementary work. They don't sort of, either they're amazing in things like sriracha sauce or there are many immigrants that have done amazing things --
Mohamed Younis 14:40
Which, I must mention, is, the only factory of which is right down the freeway from where I grew up.
Carol Graham 14:46
There you go. Yeah. OK. But then a lot of immigrants do, you know, garden work or work in restaurants or the, you know, jobs that aren't being taken by Americans. And one, and they suffered terribly during COVID -- illegal immigrants, because they were not eligible for the, for the support packages that really kept people out of poverty. And they were also scared to come forward because of the kind of the rhetoric during that administration, anti-administration -- anti-immigrant rhetoric. All of that said, you don't want to be young and entering the labor market unprepared today. And I would say this is not something that's unique to the U.S. The U.S. Is kind of more extreme because of its lack of good safety nets, its lack of good, you know, universal preschool; very mixed quality of public high schools; terrible, very mixed quality of health service services and access to healthcare. Other countries, even most Latin American countries, have national health insurance system. Right. They may not be great, but it means if you lose your job --
Mohamed Younis 16:00
But it's a baseline that everybody has some access to.
Carol Graham 16:00
Yeah, you aren't on the street, and your kids aren't gonna, you know, die of a preventable disease because you can't afford to go to the doctor. So the U.S. is kind of the poster child for wide negative emotions. I think, you know, obviously it's too big a topic to generalize too much across countries, but I think it's a topic that is going to play or be a challenge for labor market economists and other policymakers over the long run. And I think that, at minimum, what we need to do is incorporate in our public education systems the need to take on, to get different skills, socioemotional skills. You know, the service-sector jobs are always going to be there. They require a, you know, a broader mix of skills than are taught in just high school, right? So you don't have to go to college, but you're gonna have to acquire some different skills to be successful and flexible in changing labor markets.
Carol Graham 17:01
But the other, I think the other, the other big driving factor is, is technology. For all the good that it brings, it, it brings some bad; and we know that it brings disinformation on social media. It's an isolating thing. If we, you know, people that spend, we know that, for example, in very poor countries, access to the internet is a plus, right? They can transfer money all of a sudden; they can communicate in ways they couldn't before. You know, the internet has saved so many systems in COVID, in terms of online education and everything else. As awful as we think it is, it's better than not having it, right? But at the same time it does it does provide access to very negative things and particular for, particularly for people who are not otherwise engaged, who are very lonely, who are isolated, they tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time on the internet. And they tend to be very vulnerable to misinformation and sites that, that produce a lot of negative verbiage and conspiracy theories.
Carol Graham 18:09
There's, it's, and people who are in despair, who are really already in bad, you know, sort of mental health shape are most vulnerable to that information. I mean, neurologists have actually recently found that. It's something that I want to know more about. I wish I could tell you more about it, but it makes intuitive sense, right? You know, if you're spending eight hours a day alone in your basement and reading all this stuff, what do you benchmark it against? And you put that with the absence of reliable local news, and people are very vulnerable to this wave of information that they can't necessarily benchmark against anything.
Carol Graham 18:50
One reason valued local news is important, in addition to the fact that my son is a local news reporter at the Baltimore Sun now, but it's, no, it's, you believe if you have a local newspaper that you trust, you benchmark it against your reality. So, right, that what is in, in the press and what is real in your community either hold together or they don't, right. They, it gives you a way to, versus, you know, stuff is coming at you from the metaverse, to use the new term, you don't know. And, and I think again, so for people already vulnerable to loneliness, to isolation, those are double whammies. So I think both the labor force, you know, and what's happening to, to low-skilled work and the uncertainty that comes with it are probably producing some of it. I think, you know, what we now have going on in the information sphere is also negative. And third, if you look at -- and I know that's in the report as well -- if you look at the number of public protests, if you look at what's going on in civil society and with democracy, you've seen more democracies fail over 10 years than we've seen in a long time. For, for two decades before that we were very excited about
Mohamed Younis 20:14
It was a very different story.
Carol Graham 20:16
It was a very different story. We were excited about Latin, Latin America democratizing and then the Arab Spring in the Middle East and in Africa. You know, more, more, an increase of democracies and we're seeing that trend reverse. And that's just not a good thing. And now we're seeing, you know, democracy in the U.S. under really deep threat. And it's, it's terrifying, to say the least. But it's also, I think that, for people in the rest of the world is, is also negative, right?
Mohamed Younis 20:46
Carol Graham 20:48
I don't think we're, we're just, it's our isolated problem; you know, this is an immigrant coming to the U.S. thinking, OK, here, it's gonna be safe; here, it's going to be stable.
Mohamed Younis 20:59
That's exactly what struck me when you said that. First of all, I didn't even know you were from Peru originally; I should have known that. But as a fellow immigrant --
Carol Graham 21:06
It's Carol Graham [inaudible] Gomez de la Torre [inaudible] if I say my whole name, but I didn't.
Mohamed Younis 21:12
So as a fellow immigrant, it really resonated with me that you said that. Like you came to this country and it was like, OK, like this is where things work. Like there's problems; it's not a utopia, of course. But when there are problems, there are systems put in place to deal with those problems objectively, effectively, efficiently. And a lot of -- like I'm 41. You know, in the '90s, a lot of us grew up with that narrative of like this is, this, we are No. 1. You're in the best place in the world, period, undoubtedly. Yeah, it has problems. Now, the public narrative has changed so much in the United States. Like eight in 10 people see corruption widespread in government. I mean it goes on and on and on. We all live it daily.
Mohamed Younis 21:56
Let me ask you about the negative emotions trajectory just of the United States. How do you change that trajectory? Obviously that's like a gazillion-dollar question that needs books and books. But if there was sort of one thing you would look for in the United States to start moving in the right direction, what are you looking for as, as a wellbeing researcher?
Carol Graham 22:18
So, just one thing on the method, because I think, I'm a huge fan of Gallup, as you know, but I'm not crazy about the indices, particularly the negative indices. The positive emotions tend to track together, but negative emotions like stress and anger are very different. Right? And so anger doesn't seem to track with, as much with the others anyway in the index. So I don't want to go into that. I don't want to derail this and go into it with too much detail.
Mohamed Younis 22:46
But fascinating in its own right.
Carol Graham 22:48
Right. And I think we do need to disentangle those emotions, because there are probably very different people and different things driving them. But I think what has happened in the U.S. -- and I have a new book coming out called Hope and Despair with Princeton Press, which is about, it's, you know, it starts with deaths of despair and the many crises we're in as a society. But it also talks about the importance of hope in in solving so many of the problems. And it seems to me, having looked at a whole range of literature and on surveys of hope, that one of the things that remains in the U.S. that's remarkable is a tremendous amount of hope among minorities, particularly low-income African Americans and Hispanics. And hope is not just tragic optimism thinking it will be better. It really is, I can do something to make it better. Right? It's, it's a very important distinction between the two, and it's, it's been lost in a lot of populations; certainly low-income whites.
Carol Graham 23:53
I've just done a bunch of surveys of low-income African American adolescents and low-income white adolescents, and low-income African-American adolescents consistently report higher aspirations for education after high school. They report their community's support and they report having a mentor somewhere. It could be a grandparent, doesn't have to be a parent, that supports those aspirations, even though they're difficult to achieve. Low-income white adolescents are very self-reliant. You know, they want to finish high school. Their parents don't want them -- these are big generalizations, but they're pretty consistent in the surveys -- many of their parents don't want them to go beyond high school. And so, and they have no vision really of how their life could be better, right? There's, there's no sense of that except that, you know, there's kind of still this hard-work ethic. I can, I can make it work. But they don't have any sense of how, and they report much less trust in others and much less hope for the future. So how do you restore that? That's a huge question. And how do you restore it in populations for whom it's been lost? That that's, I think a big question.
Carol Graham 25:03
I mean, there are other, more policy-oriented solutions; maybe getting rid of some guns in this country wouldn't hurt, so our children don't get shot when they go to school or there, our elderly don't get shot when they go to the grocery store. I mean, that's a sign of some sort of breakdown, right? That's, that's not a good thing. And it's hard to be hopeful in that context when you, the government, half the government refuses to do anything about it. So there are many things -- better, you know, better support for families, poor families. The, the child tax credit during COVID was a huge support. Maybe it was too generous. It's hard to believe it was too generous, but, you know, some people say that. Fine, but something else to follow on that. You know, one of the things I often talk about is how economists really got it wrong when they said the opportunity costs of the poor's time was low. Yes, If you measure opportunity costs of your time in terms of the wage you get, yes, it's low, compared to the opportunity costs of the rich. But the poor don't have much leisure time. They don't have much time with their kids. They don't, you know, all those things make getting through life pretty hard.
Mohamed Younis 26:14
And COVID really highlighted that, right? Like those of us that have high-skill jobs, to make a really huge generalization, it was, it was kind of fun in the beginning to work from home and have the kids home, and we all got more family time. A lot of jobs, you can't work from home. So you're either not able to work --
Carol Graham 26:33
Right? Even then, sorry, just to follow up on your other point, it's changed the nature of how we think about work, right? I don't think anybody's going back to full time in the office unless they have to. I mean, you sort of want a bit of both, but reduces commuting time, it's better for the environment. You do get more family time. It's, but yeah, a lot of people can't do that. And that created big divisions and, and I don't think we've thought enough about those and how we might ameliorate that. I think certainly, rewarding jobs that have to be in person and service jobs that are essential with better salaries might, and better benefits would be a good start, you know? And so that the same people who are disadvantaged don't also have to lead more precarious lives. They lead very uncertain, precarious lives. They don't usually know their working hours the week before. Try and have family stability with that, right?
Carol Graham 27:30
So there are a lot of things I think we can do, and I think that would help with the negative emotions. It would reduce stress, for one. And what we know, everything we know about wellbeing, we know uncertainty is terrible for wellbeing, right? So if you don't know when you're next gonna work or if you are or aren't going to get a paycheck and you have a family, that's terrible, right? And that's not gonna, that's gonna produce negative sentiments.
Carol Graham 28:00
And I guess, you know, I mean, the other thing is a much bigger issue, but I think the political divisions that have been increasingly plaguing us and probably go well before Trump's administration for sure, but really were highlighted, and now there's almost political paralysis. I think we, we do need to get over those, both because they're not, they prevent us from, from doing positive things about problems that, that really disproportionately hit the most needy people. But the kind of deep polarization means that unless we can get some sort of consensus across groups, we're just going to get more radicalization. And unfortunately, one of the things we know about sort of in-group, out-group thing is that if groups feel that they've lost and that other groups are encroaching them, which is basically why low-income whites are so angry and they feel that all the attention has been to minorities, and I mean, whether it's rational or not --
Mohamed Younis 29:09
It's a mindset of dispossession.
Carol Graham 29:11
It's a mindset, and it's curbing our ability to have peace, social peace and to move ahead. So we have to address it. And maybe if we can kind of move the debate so far from the extremes to something -- you know, if you look at polls, the majority of Americans believe in certain things about, you know, things like we don't want our children to get shot in school. We, you know --
Mohamed Younis 29:37
Yeah, no, there's a lot more consensus, of course, than --
Carol Graham 29:39
There's consensus on abortion. And yet the political debate is, you know, there may be a divide over when it's appropriate or not, but just outright banning it, it's not what the majority of the population supports.
Mohamed Younis 29:52
Making it about public opinion and kind of where we're at, we're also in a moment in history where we have a record high of people identifying as independents. There are a very smaller and smaller group of very ideologically driven people on the far ends of both sides. And a lot of people don't find themselves or their reality, you know, in the narrative that is being had nationally, whether it's from the left or the right. But all of that plus the technology piece, I mean, you can just see how alienation, feelings of isolation are, are on the rise, and it can't be good for the human animal that is, you know, is a very social creature.
Carol Graham 30:33
No, we know, right. And we know that stress is bad; It's linked to bad health outcomes. We certainly know depression and despair are even worse. And so it's, and yet we also see pockets of resilience that I think we should start to learn from and work from. One is the optimism of deprived groups like low-income minorities. But the other is the fact that actually at the same time that there was an increase of negative emotions during, particularly earlier during COVID, it recovered a little bit in the face of a long-term trajectory, we also saw kind of increases in the positive emotions -- some good, some good trends. I'm not saying all the trends are good, but there are good trends. And I think a lot of them relate to people's ability to adapt, to have empathy for others and realizing we have a worldwide pandemic. If you're sitting with your job intact, working from home, that you're lucky, and you have some empathy for, you know, so I think there's some, there's some things we can reach out to and, and learn more about that are the antidote to the negative emotions increase we've seen. And I, again, I think the U.S. is kind of the most extreme. But a lot of countries have the same thing, and a lot of people are living, you know, under, that were living in democracies are not.
Carol Graham 32:02
Or a lot of people, like in Ukraine, they're now being attacked. There's a war, a completely unexpected war, and yet they're pulling together. You know, I think if you, there are no surveys of, you know, wellbeing in Ukraine right now. But I think what's happening suggests that people have pulled together and are, it's brought them more together in a horrible, you know, in the context of horrible circumstances. But again, there's a lot about the human capacity to adapt, to, you know, to come together. And that's the opposite of the isolation we're talking about and it, you know, just I'm hoping we can build from it and learn from it. I mean, maybe I'm maybe I'm too hopeful.
Mohamed Younis 32:47
No, I mean that's a great note to end on. So let's end there. On that note, that's Carol Graham, senior fellow and research director at the Brookings Institute. It's so great to have you with us.
Carol Graham 32:58
Thanks so much.
Mohamed Younis 32:59
That's our show. Thank you for tuning in. To subscribe and stay up to date with our latest conversations, just search for "The Gallup Podcast" wherever you podcast. And for more key findings from Gallup News, go to news.gallup.com or follow us on Twitter @gallupnews. If you have suggestions for the show, email email@example.com. The Gallup Podcast is directed by Curtis Grubb and produced by Justin McCarthy. I'm Mohamed Younis, and this is Gallup: reporting on the will of the people since the 1930s.