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Middle East Leads World in Negative Emotions

Middle East Leads World in Negative Emotions

Iraqis the most negative worldwide

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- People living in Iraq, the Palestinian Territories, Bahrain, and a few other Middle Eastern countries are among the most likely worldwide to experience a lot of negative emotions on a daily basis, according to Gallup's Negative Experience Index. Iraq's score of 59 on the index in 2011 -- which is based on respondents' reports of experiencing anger, stress, worry, sadness, and physical pain -- is the highest in the world. The Palestinian Territories placed a distant second with a score of 43.

Highest Negative Experience Index scores

Lowest Negative Experience Index scores

The Negative Experience Index is a measure of respondents' experienced well-being on the day before the survey, providing real-time measures of respondents' negative emotions and pain. The findings in this analysis are based on Gallup interviews in 148 countries in 2011.

Arab Spring Countries Most Negative, Former Soviet Countries Least Negative

Iraq's world-high score reflects a spike in negative emotions in 2011, with residents reporting near-record levels of sadness, stress, anger, physical pain, and worry. Situations were similar in Egypt. In fact, index scores in several of the Arab Spring countries where Gallup could conduct surveys placed them in the global top 10 of daily negative emotions. One notable exception is Yemen, where daily negativity declined from 37 in 2010 to 24 in 2011, after then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh left the country to get medical care in Saudi Arabia and ceded power to his vice president.

The U.S. was in the top quartile for daily negative emotions in 2011, scoring a 32 with increases in sadness, worry, and physical pain since 2007. This score puts the U.S. higher than many Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development member countries other than Hungary, Spain, Israel, Chile, Turkey, and Greece. Americans' negative emotions were at their lowest in 2007, with an index score of 23, the year before the economic downturn.

Negative Experience Index scores in OECD countries

The countries with the lowest reported negative emotions worldwide are all in Asia, with the exception of Mali (data were collected before the recent coup), Trinidad and Tobago, and the Somaliland region of Somalia. Additionally, five of the countries with the lowest Negative Experience Index scores are former Soviet Union countries, including Russia with a score of 16.

Not All Major Events Swing Moods

Major world events did not necessarily affect the daily negative emotions in some countries. Japan's score of 21 on the index was exactly the same three months after the massive earthquake in 2011 as it was the year before. The trend was similar in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where the level of negative emotions did not change between December 2008 and June 2010. However, Haiti saw a six-point decline in negative emotions between 2011 and 2010, as reported stress, anger, sadness, and worry dropped. The timing of these surveys might also play an important factor. Negative emotions might have increased immediately following the earthquakes, but the increases may not have lasted.

Bottom Line

Countries and territories with the highest negative emotions have been struck with economic hardship, riots, and revolutions. In some cases, such as Egypt and Bahrain, negative emotions were running high well before the unrest.

Previous Gallup research suggests that rising income and GDP at the country level do not always suggest a rise in well-being. As new governments emerge from revolutions and other governments implement extreme austerity measures, leaders need to track daily emotions and well-being in general as both will give a more complete picture of stability than GDP and income.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2011 in 148 countries and areas. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from ±3.4 percentage points to ±3.9 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

The Negative Experience Index is an aggregation of five questions:

  • Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about physical pain?
  • Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about worry?
  • Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about sadness?
  • Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about stress?
  • Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about anger?

Index scores are calculated at the individual record level. For each individual the following procedure applies: The five items are recoded so that affirmative answers are scored as a "1" and all other answers (including don't know or refused) are a "0." If a record has no answer for an item, then that item is not eligible for inclusion in the calculations. An individual record has an index calculated if it has at least four out of five valid scores (0 or 1). The record's final score is the mean of valid items multiplied by 100. The final country-level index score is the mean of all individual records for which an index score was calculated. Country-level weights are applied to this calculation.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Negative Experience Index scores worldwide

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