Gallup has surveyed more than 154,000 people in 146 countries on whether they had felt pain, worry, stress, anger or sadness the previous day. It has reported that the global mood was at its gloomiest since the first survey in 2006.
It concludes that happiness levels are at their lowest level in over a decade, with the number of people who say they feel stressed and worried on the up.
Conflict-hit Central African Republic (CAR) was the world’s unhappiest place last year, with Iraq in second place, according to the ranking by pollsters Gallup.
“Collectively, the world is more stressed, worried, sad and in pain today than we’ve ever seen it,” the group’s managing editor, Mohamed Younis, dramatically wrote in a foreword to the study.
Sub-Saharan Africa led the way, with 24 of 35 countries surveyed reaching a 10-year happiness low in 2017, often due to civic unrest and crippling healthcare systems causing people to go hungry.
“In CAR and some of these other places, high percentages of the population are just struggling to afford the basics,” the study’s lead author, Julie Ray, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
CAR has been ravaged by violence, with most of the country now beyond the control of the government, and about three in four residents said they experienced pain and worry.
Wealthier countries were not immune to the dip in mood. About half the Americans interviewed said they were stressed – roughly the same proportion of respondents as in the CAR.
Economist Jan-Emmanuel De Neve said it was “disturbing” to see the global mood souring against a backdrop of rising wealth and material progress.
“There is probably a more structural indicator around the increasing wealth not being inclusive enough,” said De Neve, an associate professor at the University of Oxford who has written about the link between income and happiness.
Paraguay topped a second table of most positive countries, in which residents were asked if they felt well-rested, had been treated with respect, enjoyed themselves or learnt something the previous day. War-torn Yemen and Afghanistan came bottom.