- Negative emotions stalled at record highs
- Positive emotions showed signs of recovery
- More of the world felt well-rested and enjoyment, smiled or laughed
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Emotionally, the world was no worse off in 2022 than it was in 2021, but it is still in a heightened negative state, according to Gallup’s latest annual global update on the negative and positive experiences that people have daily.
The well-documented global rise in negative emotions such as stress, sadness, anger and worry stalled last year, keeping Gallup’s Negative Experience Index unchanged from the high of 33 it reached in 2021.
As it does every year, Gallup asked adults in 142 countries and areas in 2022 if they had five different negative experiences on the day before the survey -- and then compiled the results into an index. Higher scores on the Negative Experience Index indicate that more of the population is experiencing these negative emotions.
In 2022, about four in 10 adults worldwide said they experienced a lot of worry (41%) or stress (40%), and nearly one in three experienced a lot of physical pain (32%). More than one in four experienced sadness (27%), and slightly fewer experienced anger (23%).
Worry, stress and sadness remained near their record highs set in 2021, although each declined one percentage point in 2022. The percentage of adults worldwide who experienced physical pain increased one point, while the percentage who experienced anger remained at 23% for the second year in a row.
Positive Emotions Show Signs of Recovery
After dropping for the first time in 2021 following years of stability, positive emotions rebounded slightly in 2022. The global index score in 2022 -- 70 -- is up one point from the previous year, although it is still lower than the score of 71 in the years leading up to the pandemic and even the first year of the pandemic.
The Positive Experience Index is based on people's responses to five questions about positive experiences they had the day before the survey. Higher scores indicate that more of the population reported experiencing these emotions.
Last year, roughly seven in 10 people worldwide said they felt well-rested (71%), experienced a lot of enjoyment (72%), or smiled or laughed a lot (73%). Nearly nine in 10 felt treated with respect (87%). People were far less likely, as they are typically, to say they learned or did something interesting the day before the interview; in 2022, half of the world (50%) experienced this.
Improvements on four of the five questions that make up the index helped lift it in 2022. More people in 2022 reported feeling well-rested and respected, experiencing enjoyment, and smiling or laughing a lot than in the previous year.
The percentages of people who said they felt well‑rested and experienced enjoyment each increased by two points, and the percentages who smiled or laughed and felt treated with respect each inched up by one point. The percentage who learned something interesting remained unchanged from the previous year.
Afghanistan Again Ranks as Least Positive Country in the World
One year after the Taliban returned to power, life was worse for Afghans than at any point in the past decade -- or for anyone else on the planet.
Afghanistan has ranked as the least positive country in the world every year since 2017, apart from 2020 when Gallup could not survey the country because of the pandemic. After dropping to a global record low of 32 in 2021, the situation was not much different a year later. The country’s score of 34 in 2022 is the lowest in the world.
Positive daily experiences were already in limited supply before the Taliban seized control, but these emotions largely disappeared from Afghanistan in 2021 -- and did not return in 2022. The percentage of Afghans who said they felt enjoyment, learned something interesting or felt well-rested the previous day stayed at or near record lows.
Afghans Not Alone in Misery
Afghanistan in 2022 posted the highest score in the world on the Negative Experience Index for the second year in a row. Afghanistan’s score of 58 on the index remained relatively unchanged from the previous year, when it posted a record-high score of 59.
However, Afghans were not alone in their misery. Sierra Leone also posted a score of 58 in 2022, with all the survey fieldwork in the country taking place after deadly protests against the rising cost of living.
Worry, stress and physical pain skyrocketed to record levels in Sierra Leone in 2022, with strong majorities in the country reporting that they had experienced each of these. Notably, the 77% of Sierra Leoneans who say they experienced physical pain the previous day is -- by one point -- the highest Gallup has ever recorded for any country.
While the world’s emotional health didn’t get worse in 2022, it’s too soon for policymakers to relax. Although positive emotions are up, the world still has a wellbeing problem. Negative emotions are still running at record highs. The Negative Experience Index score in 2022 is 10 points higher than it was in 2007 -- and still two points higher than after the pandemic first arrived.
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