People across the globe are more stressed than five years ago

07 May 2019 3 min. read

People around the world are much more stressed than five years ago. Today, 1 in 3 people suffer from stress and effects in its slipstream, according to a study by research firm Gallup among approximately 150,000 people living in 140 countries. 

The research into stress is part of a wider study by Gallup into the emotions of people. Respondents were asked to answer a range of questions about their sentiment and mood on the previous day, including: Have you been treated with respect? Did you laugh a lot? Did you learn anything interesting? Did you have physical pain? Were you sad? Were you angry? Were you stressed? 

The researchers found that on average, across all corners of the globe, the degree of negativity increased slightly in 2018 vis a vis the twelve months previous. They added that it continues a somewhat concerning trend – in the past decade, negativity decreased only in a single year, in all other it either stayed the same or increased. And compared to 2011, negativity now is a stunning 25 percentage points higher. Last year, more than one in three people said they experienced a lot of worries (39%) or stress (35%), and three in ten experienced a lot of physical pain (31%). At least one in five experienced sadness (24%) or anger (22%). 

Europeans are across the board among the least stressed populations of the globe. However, stress nevertheless comes with a major cost to society. One estimate found that employers lose billions in foregone productivity due to stress leave, with around one in five of all sickness days attributed to stress in the office. Nearly one in eight European employees even has a burnout or complaints related to burnout.

% of Europeans that are stressed and worried

Residents from former French colony Chad lead the way in terms of negative feelings. Six in ten Chadians told Gallup that they were in pain and worry. Seven out of ten residents of Chad had difficulty paying for food in the past year. Rounding off the top three are Niger and Sierra Leone, two African countries which face similar economic, health and societal challenges. Other countries where inhabitants view their lives negatively are Iraq, Iran, Benin, Liberia, Guinea and Palestine. 

Countries which have seen a notable rise in negative experiences are Afghanistan, which is facing a negative cycle of poverty and violence amid the country’s political turmoil (only 36% of Afghans smiled or laughed the previous day, tied as a record low for any country in the past 12 years) and Turkey, a country which has entered a recession on the back of political instability – ending 18 years of continuous economic growth. 

As they do year after year, countries which have the happiest people tend to be based in Latin America. Paraguayans, in particular those from capital city Asuncion, score highly on happiness, with residents of Panama, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador among the top five. Closing the top ten are four other Latin American countries (Honduras, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia) and Indonesia, an Asian country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

The high percentages reporting positive emotions in Latin America partly reflect the cultural tendency in the region to focus on life’s positives. This at the same time highlights the potential of bias creeping into the results – country of origin has been found to be the single variable that is predictive of results on both the positive and negative side of emotions.

Related: Norway is globe's best country for turning prosperity into citizen wellbeing.