The 2015 Global Emotions survey from Gallup finds that, “Iraqis Are the Saddest and One of the Angriest Populations in the World.” Iraq also tops the overall “Negative Experience” score. They explain:
“Iraq’s high Negative Experience Index score is largely attributable to the relatively high percentages of Iraqis who report experiencing each of these negative emotions. Majorities of Iraqis experienced worry (62%), physical pain (57%), sadness (57%) and stress (55%) the previous day, and half of Iraqis (50%) said they experienced anger. Iraqis lead the world in experiencing sadness and tie with Iran on anger (49%).”
This Gallup survey covered 1,000 adults in each of 148 countries during 2014.
The “Highest  Negative Experience Index Scores 2014” were, in order:
South Sudan 44
Palestinian Territories 41
The “Lowest  Negative Experience Index Scores 2014” were:
Gallup reports: “The Negative and Positive Experience Indexes are not inversely related, so countries with the lowest negative scores do not necessarily have the highest positive scores. Many of the countries with the lowest scores on the Negative Experience Index are post-Soviet states, where people have typically reported both some of the lowest negative emotions in the world and some of the lowest positive emotions.”
The “Highest  Positive Experience Index Scores 2014” were:
Costa Rica 81
El Salvador 81
The “Lowest  Positive Experience Index Scores 2014” were:
Bosnia and Herzegovina 55
There was a far smaller range between highest and lowest positive-experience scores (89/47), than between highest and lowest negative-emotion scores (56/12). The entire world ranges positive experiences 89/47, constituting a range or ratio of 1.9, but the amount of negative experiences ranges 56/12, or 4.7. It seems that the world is more happy than sad (since people are reporting more positive experiences than negative experiences), but that the sadness is concentrated in countries that have especially suffered wars, plagues, or sustained economic collapse.
The extraordinary concentration of positive experiences in Central America is stunning, because the murder-rates there are also high. For example, Honduras has the world’s highest murder-rate, yet it has the fifth-highest positive-experiences score. However, the latest year when Honduras’s negative-experience score was published, which was in 2014 based on 2013 polling, Honduras ranked 53 out of the 138 polled countries, or had the 53rd-highest negative-experience score. So: negative experiences were fairly high in the world’s murder-capital, but positive experiences were very high there. Is the world’s murder-capital a fairly happy place?
In Gallup’s report last year, in which 138 countries were surveyed during 2013, the nation with the lowest positive-experience score was Syria. That nation had the all-time lowest score of 36 (obviously, the war with ISIS was likely the main reason for that); Chad was the second-lowest then, at 52. But neither Syria nor Chad was even included in this year’s report (the report that’s based on 2014 data). However, the other lowest-ten nations on the latest-published positive-experience scores were likewise among the lowest-scoring nations last year. The bottom-ten-and top-ten lists look pretty similar, year-to-year. Stability in these scores is rather strong.
The United States scored 25th out of 143 on the 2014 positive-experience index (showing on that as being a happy nation there), and 28th out of 138 on the 2013 negative experience index (showing as a happy nation on that too).
Russia scored 87th out of 143 on the 2014 positive-experience index (showing as a rather unhappy nation there), and 132nd out of 138 on the 2013 negative-experience index (showing as an extremely happy nation there).
China scored 45th out of 143 on the positive, and 123rd out of 138 on the negative.
India scored 63rd out of 143 on the positive, and 48th out of 138 on the negative.
Regarding Denmark, which is the country that leads most happiness-rankings, they’re 26th out of 143 on the positive, and 114th out of 138 on the negative. (That’s clearly a very happy country, in Gallup’s rating-system.)
Sweden is 24th of 143 on the positive, and 108th of 138 on the negative.
New Zealand is 21st of 143 on the positive, and 128th of 138 on the negative. (That might be the happiest country on Earth.)
Uzbekistan is 32nd of 143 on the positive, and 138th out of 138 on the negative. That negative, of course, was from 2013, when Uzbekistan’s score on the negative was 13; but the latest, the merely partial, report from Gallup (with which the present article started) also showed Uzbekistan as having now the “Lowest Negative Experience Index Score” in 2014; it’s only 12. (Maybe Uzbekistan is even happier than New Zealand.)
If these surveys from Gallup aren’t just a total mess; if they’re interpretable at all; then Uzbekistan indeed probably is the world’s stand-out happiest nation, being in the top 32/143 or 22%, for positive experiences, and in the bottom 138/138 for negative experiences — the #1 nation for absence of negative experiences, or in the top 1% for lacking negative experiences. If absence of negative experiences is even more important than presence of positive experiences (and that does seem reasonable), then Uzbekistan is probably the happiness-capital of the world. Maybe everyone should move to Uzbekistan? Has Gallup perhaps identified the best place on Earth to live — and it’s Uzbekistan?
Gallup’s happenstance reporting about these surveys (why didn’t they report the complete scores, and rankings, for positive, and also for negative, at the same time?), and their failure to provide the complete rankings (not only the top-ten and bottom-ten), causes a large percentage of the enormous expense that they’re spent to generate these data, to be simply wasted — difficult if not impossible to interpret in any really meaningful way. Gallup’s management, at least of their reports if not also of their survey-questions, is clearly poor. But perhaps their polling isn’t quite so bad. In any case, their confusing system of international surveying on welfare (“negative experience” and “positive experience”) is a conceptual mess, unclear to interpret, if interpretable at all.
Is Uzbekistan really the best place to live? Anyway, it’s one of the few countries that the U.S. didn’t grab control of, either by outright invasion, or by means of a coup.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.