Gallup, a large polling company, sought to find out the mood of the world with a Global Emotions survey of 160,000 people in 116 countries during 2020 and early 2021.
The results of the study shows that more people felt “stressed, sad, angry and worried in 2020 more than at any point in Gallup’s global tracking.” Gallup claims that it’s not solely due to the worldwide pandemic, though it is a major contributor. The trend of happiness has been trending downwards for over a decade.
Here are some highlights of the survey:
- Four in 10 adults said they had experienced worry (40%) or stress (40%),
- Under three in 10 had experienced physical pain (29%) during a lot of the previous day,
- About one in four or more experienced sadness (27%) or anger (24%),
- The poll concluded that 2020 “officially became the most stressful year in recent history,”
- 190 million people experienced significantly higher stress in 2020 than in years past,
- In 2020, the world was a sadder, angrier, more worried and more stressed-out place than it has been at any time in the past 15 years.”
The results shouldn’t be too surprising. The United States, along with the rest of the world, had to contend with the Covid-19 disease. We were told to stay in our homes, millions of Americans lost their jobs, iconic companies filed for bankruptcy protection and small mom-and-pop shops had to close. They were also taken advantage of when the Paycheck Protection Program allowed big corporations to take the lion’s share of funds before the small businesses, which it was intended for, had a fair chance to file for the much-needed money.
Politics permeated all aspects of our lives. The mass media fed a steady diet of doom, gloom and fear. The cable news shows and papers gained ratings and advertising revenue but divided the country and ginned up anger, pitting people against each other.
The killing of George Floyd caused pain and suffering. Peaceful protests were hijacked by bad actors and we watched cities burn, stores looted and random acts of chaos and violence. Our politicians came across as woefully unequipped for these unprecedented events. It felt that they took away some of our liberties without concerns for the bill of rights.
Health organizations, while well meaning, seemed to offer contradictory edicts which led to a growing distrust of government officials. The confidence of leaders deteriorated. It didn’t help the mood of the country when instances such as covid-infected senior citizens were sent to nursing homes in New York City and many died as a result.
Families had to deal with loved ones who contracted the virus and hundreds of thousands Americans succumbed to it. Families weren’t allowed to go to their funerals and were told not to attend religious ceremonies in churches or temples.
People lost their jobs at alarmingly high record-setting levels. Schools were closed in many states forcing children to endure glitchy online learning. Thousands of working mothers left the stress of juggling a career and taking care of their families. Thousands decided to leave their jobs to focus on their children. Older workers couldn’t find jobs, gave up, and stopped searching.
While the majority of people in the U.S. were suffering, billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerburg and Elon Musk added millions and billions more to their bank accounts. Instead of an even recovery, we had a K-shaped rebound. The letter shows that the upwards swing represents the fortunes of the already rich, and the downward slope is the rest of society,
The resentment, unhappiness and dissatisfaction has been brewing for the last ten years, the report says. Gallup points to “Historically, political and economic turmoil” which are “often the backdrop of rising negative emotions.” A rising combination of “increasing global hunger, a lack of freedom, rising corruption and income inequality” have made people frustrated and anxious.
The report points to the book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, which “highlights the startling finding that the combined deaths of suicide, alcohol poisoning and opioid overdoses have single-handedly contributed to the national decline in life expectancy in the U.S., especially among White males without college degrees.” The book showed that the “areas that were most affected by these deaths were the same places where people reported the most physical pain in America, which is one of the indicators featured in this report.”
It’s not all bad. Although we’re now contending with the Delta variant (which is occurring after the study), “people’s ratings of their lives rebounded — hitting new all-time highs — and their emotions returned to pre-pandemic levels in the U.S in 2021.” The percentage of Americans who said that they are now “thriving” reached 59.2% in June, 2021 “the highest in over 13 years of ongoing measurement.”