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How happy are you today?

Happiness on the slide: the world has become much less happy over the past 15 years according to Gallup polling

In 2022, are you more or less happy than you were 15 years ago?

Gallup, the world-renowned leader in statistical analyses of polls on public opinion, knows the answer about how everyone feels – compiled directly from its 2021 data in the 2022 Gallup Global Emotions survey.

Now, your personal answer may be quite different from Gallup’s overall numbers – unless in a slight polling chance you were randomly selected for a detailed interview with a Gallup representative!

Since 1936, the Gallup organisation and its Gallup Poll has measured and tracked the public's attitudes concerning political, social, and economic issues, including sensitive or controversial subjects. While the polling itself costs the company $10 million a year, the results have provided tremendous credibility in consulting and corporate management services.

The global rise of unhappiness

Jon Clifton, Gallup’s chief executive officer, gave this message at the start of the 2022 Gallup Global Emotions Survey:

“The world broke a lot of records in 2021. Corporate profits, venture capital funding, CO2 emissions and the temperature of the oceans all reached record highs last year.

“But there is another record the world broke that hasn't yet made headlines – and it has to do with how everyone feels.

“As you will read in this report, in 2021, negative emotions – the aggregate of the stress, sadness, anger, worry and physical pain that people feel every day – reached a new record in the history of Gallup’s tracking.

“While the record is not surprising with war, inflation, and a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, however, global unhappiness has been rising steadily for more than a decade!”

The Gallup World Poll composition

In 2005, Gallup began its World Poll surveys targeting the population of non-institutionalised citizens, age 15 and older, in 160 countries representing more than 98 per cent of the world's adult population. Approximately 1,000 residents per country are interviewed in their own language to produce statistically comparable results for probability samples that contribute to both Gallup’s Positive and Negative Experience Indexes.

These indexes measure life’s intangibles – feelings and emotions – which traditional economic indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) were never intended to capture.

Each index provides a real‐time snapshot of people’s daily experiences, offering leaders insights into the health of their societies that they cannot gather from economic measures alone.

The 2022 Global Emotions Report offers a snapshot of Gallup’s latest measurements of people’s positive and negative daily experiences as the second year of the Covid‐19 pandemic wore on. The findings are based on nearly 127,000 interviews with adults in 122 countries and areas in 2021 and early 2022.

Question samples

Positive and negative experience questions that measure life intangibles about the participants’ feelings the day before the interview range the gamut.

Were you well-rested, treated with respect all day, did you smile or laugh a lot, did you learn anything, or do something interesting, did you generally enjoy the day? Or, were you in physical pain, feeling worried, sad, stressed, or angry?

The positive/negative questions are also incorporated within the five elements of wellbeing.

1. Career

Do you like what you are doing every day? Only 20 per cent said they were fully engaged. The pain of a poor job or being unemployed affects family.

2. Social

Do you have meaningful relationships and quality friendships in your life, that is people who would help in time of need?

Six per cent reported they had no one – for a global population, this means 300 million people are disengaged from life, going two weeks or more without any friend or family contact.

3. Financial

Two-thirds indicated that they were struggling financially to make ends meet.

4. Physical

Do you have the energy to get things done? Thirty per cent reported that they are food insecure, that they do not have enough to eat compounding their ability to work.

5. Community

Do you like where you live?

For the results, see the attached chart.

Many things make people unhappy, but there are five significant contributors to the rise of global unhappiness:

• Poverty

• Bad communities

• Hunger

• Loneliness

• Scarcity of good work.

Two billion people live on insufficient incomes and another two billion are so unhappy with where they live, they would not recommend it to anyone they know.

Our emotions can influence our decisions, actions, and even our cognitions for better or worse, including at the ballot box, according to George Ward, MIT behavioural scientist.

Unhappiness impacts negative emotions that can be so easily amplified through social media.

The entire world today, it seems, is one giant fishbowl where everyone knows what everyone else has, acquires, does, thinks, looks, spends and lives.

One cannot help making comparisons, factually or subliminally, as to why someone has “more than me”.

Gallup’s presentation last week featured its CEO Jon Clifton, highlighting the recent Gallup Global Emotions Poll results and the publication of his new book, The Blind Spot: The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It, states that world leaders were so focused on economic stressors, GDP, and unemployment, they missed how the absence of their citizenry’s wellbeing, and years of unhappiness contributed to events such as the Arab uprising, Brexit and election of the former US president.

Governments and policymakers – take note.

So, readers, where do you rank on the happy/unhappiness scale compared to 15 years ago?


Gallup Global Emotions Report 2022 (see PDF attached under “Related Media” on this webpage)

Gallup’s publishing arm is extensive: many of their best known books have achieved global fame. First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently

Now, Discover Your Strengths, one of Amazon’s bestselling books of all time. Discover your best strengths! I encourage anyone who can afford to buy it new, to find out just how good you are!

More discussion on this on my blog, The Bermy Island Finance Blog, launched tomorrow at http://www.marthamyron.com/bermy-finance-blog

Martha Harris Myron is a native Bermuda islander with US connections, a former qualified international financial planner, author of the Dawn of New Beginnings: Bermuda’s First Financial Literacy Primer, 298 pages, available at Bookmart, Bermuda and Amazon books. The Bermy Island Finance Blog launches on Sunday, September 4 at http://marthamyron.com/bermy-finance-blog. Anyone wishing to subscribe send me a note at info@marthamyron.com

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Published September 03, 2022 at 7:54 am (Updated September 03, 2022 at 7:54 am)

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