NEW YORK – No doubt, there is abundant political and social polarization in the world’s biggest and oldest democracies, India and the United States, who are also prototypes of one of the poorest and richest countries globally. Yet, when it comes to stress levels, many more people wince in the US, than in India, or so it seems going by the Gallup 2019 Global Emotions Report.
The annual report, released today, has some surprising results: even as the economy kept soaring, more Americans were stressed, angry and worried last year than they have been at most points during the past decade. A whopping 55% of those interviewed in the US by Gallup in 2018 said they had experienced stress during a lot of the day, nearly half (45%) said they felt worried a lot and more than one in five (22%) said they felt anger a lot. Greece topped the list of countries with the maximum stress levels.
When it comes to worry, the six-point gap between the US (45%) and the global average (39%) was not nearly as substantial as it was with stress, according to the Gallup poll based on more than 151,000 interviews with adults in over 140 countries in 2018.
The US was also far from the top of the list of countries with the largest worried populations. In 29 countries, a majority of people said they worried a lot the previous day, including at least six in 10 in places such as Mozambique (63%), Chad (61%) and Benin (60%).
And, even though more Americans were angry last year than most years in the past, the 22% who were angry was the same as the global average. Americans, as a whole, were half as likely to be angry as the populations of the Palestinian Territories (43%), Iran (43%), Iraq (44%), and Armenia (45%).
In comparison, only 22% of folks in India experience a lot of stress, according to a phone interview with a spokesperson from Gallup, who did not wish to be identified. In fact, the stress levels were down in India in 2018, from the 25% recorded in 2017.
In most countries, a total of 1,000 adults were interviewed, while an ‘over sample’ was used in India, with a total of 3,000 people being asked to respond to questions which ranged from ‘Positive Experience Index’ to ‘Negative Experience Index’.
Some standard interview questions: Did you feel well-rested yesterday? Were you treated with respect all day yesterday? Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Did you learn or do something interesting yesterday? Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about physical pain? How about worry? How about sadness? How about anger?
When it comes to ‘Negative Experience Index’ – a measure of real-time measure of respondents` negative experiences on the day before the interview, India recorded 33%, the best result in South Asia. In comparison, Afghanistan and Nepal recorded a high of 39%; Pakistan and Sri Lanka followed with 38%, while Bangladesh recorded 36%.
Gallup also used a cover photo of a woman from Jaipur, with a bright smile, for its 2019 report. The reason: editor’s choice, responded the spokesperson.
Asked of the contradiction with the World Happiest Report 2019 – released earlier this year, which showed India’s happiness plunged from 133rd position in 2018 to 140th in 2019, the Gallup spokesperson said the earlier report is based on overall quality of life in the future, while the new Global Emotions Report is more on day-to-day affairs an individual goes through. In the latter report, India ranks 94th in the ‘Positive’ index slot.
The political connotations of the new Gallup report cannot be ignored, even though Gallup says they did focus on it.
Younger Americans between the ages of 15 and 49 are among the most stressed, worried and angry in the US. Roughly two in three of those younger than 50 said they experienced stress a lot, about half said they felt worried a lot and at least one in four or more felt anger a lot.
Income also plays a role with worry and stress, with the lowest income Americans carrying more of the emotional burden than the highest income Americans. Nearly seven in 10 Americans in the poorest 20% of the population said they experienced stress the previous day, compared with less than half (48%) of Americans in the richest 20%. Similarly, 56% of Americans in the poorest group said they worried a lot, compared with 41% in the richest group.
There was also a strong relationship between stress, worry and disapproval of the job that President Donald Trump is doing. Those who disapprove of Trump’s job performance are significantly more likely to experience each of these negative emotions than those who do, according to Gallup.
The spokesperson didn’t comment on record when asked if reduction in stress levels in India had anything to do with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in power.
Overall, the world took a negative turn in 2017, with global levels of stress, worry, sadness and pain hitting new highs. The next Gallup poll makes it clear that during a solid year of economic growth, the US kept this negative trend going into 2018.
The disconnect between a strong economy and Americans’ increasing negative emotions illustrates how GDP and other hard economic data only tell part of the story. In fact, the levels of negative emotions in the past several years are even higher than during the US recession years.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)