In 2016, researchers interviewed nearly 150,000 people in 142 countries about their day. Did you smile or laugh a lot? Did you experience enjoyment? Did you learn or do something interesting? Did you feel stress, anger, physical pain? They published the answers in a big report released this week called the Global Emotions Report.
Asking these kinds of questions could have allowed economists to more accurately predict huge social changes like Brexit, the boss of the company that published the report said. In the run up to the referendum, the UK looked like it was doing okay, by the measures economists normally use. The country's 'wealth' (or its
') was growing at about 2 per cent and unemployment had dropped below 5 per cent.
What they weren't paying attention to was the emotional state of the country – things like, for example, a 15 per cent decline in the number of people rating their lives as ‘thriving’. And sometimes, it's how people feel about the economy that spurs their decisions more than just what they're told about how things are.
So how are people feeling around the world? Here’s what the report said:
More than 70% of people worldwide said they ‘enjoyed’ yesterday.
They smiled or laughed a lot, felt well-rested, and felt treated with respect.
People in Latin American countries are enjoying themselves the most...
The top ten nations on the positivity scale are mostly in the Latin American region, with Paraguay, Costa Rica and Panama leading the way. The report says it’s because of a “cultural tendency” to focus on the positives in life.
... but Filipinos are learning and doing interesting things the most.
78 per cent of the population in the Philippines say they had interesting experiences the day before the interview. Just half of people around the world said they learned or did something interesting the day before the interview.
Iraqis are having the worst time...
Iraq tops the list for negative experiences, and has done so since 2008. Negative scores around the world are “strongly related” to living standards, social turmoil and health – according to the report, high percentages of Iraqis high percentages reported experiencing worry (63 per cent), physical pain (60 per cent), stress (59 per cent) and sadness (57 per cent) the previous day.
...but Greeks are the most stressed.
67 per cent of the Greek population state they experienced a lot of stress the previous day, probably largely due to the unemployment crisis – 20 per cent of the country is out of work. Worry was highest in the Central African Republic at 72 per cent (the country is in the middle of a civil war.)
And ex-Soviet Union countries are the least ‘emotional’ overall.
People in the ex-Soviet Union countries were least likely to answer questions with either positive or negative responses, making them the least “emotional”.
So why all the personal questions?
Gallup, the firm that published the report, says the reason they asked questions like this is to help understand how humans behave (what’s called ‘behavioral economics’). They say that only 30 per cent of human behavior is rational; the other 70 per cent is emotional. Underestimating the importance of emotion in economics has lead global leaders to fail to spot huge social changes like the election of Donald Trump, Brexit – and pretty much everything else that happened in 2016.