The world is becoming a more negative place, at least according to a recent Gallup poll. Since 2007, the Negative Experience Index from Gallup has inched its way upwards universally: Gallup asks individuals in 138 countries to rank their experiences with stress, anger, sadness, and pain, and more and more people are citing these experiences as part of their daily lives.
The most recent United States' Negative Experience Index score was 33% while Canada's was at 31%. There are many more countries who score higher on the negative experience scale than those in North America, but considering the rankings of countries like New Zealand (19%) and even South Africa (18%), the Americans aren't doing exceptionally well either. The least negative countries might actually surprise you – Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Vietnam are the top four countries that report the least frequent negative experiences in the world. Even Russia comes in at only 17%. Of course, as with all self-reported polls, results shouldn't be considered infallible; a degree of inaccuracy must be allowed for those who, for example, don't feel confident in truthfully reporting their experiences.
As far as the countries that report the most negative experiences? Some are very obvious - while others are a little more surprising.
10 Lebanon - 41% Negative Experience Index
Lebanon has often been the center of conflict in the Middle East. Now overwhelmed with Syrian refugees, the problem isn't getting much better. It's estimated that Syrian refugees make up about a quarter of the population, and many of them are struggling to survive, living in poverty and being denied medical care. On July 2nd, there was a grenade attack that wounded four outside of a coffee shop in Tripoli, and there are fears that more and more jihadists might be making the move to Lebanon. It's no wonder that with so much civil war, terrorist threats, hostility toward the refugees, and poverty that people would feel more negative about their situations. And most likely, the state of the country and their borders is causing stress, fear, and instability among both citizens and refugees alike.
9 Cambodia - 42% Negative Experience Index
Things are starting to look up for Cambodia, all things considered. The country is no longer under the rule of the Khmer Rouge or experiencing civil war, and the country is drawing in foreign investments for their natural resources. However, even considering those facts, Cambodia is still one of the poorest countries on earth with a large percentage of citizens surviving on less than $1 a day. Not to mention the fact that corruption still abounds and citizens have experienced forced evictions and social unrest over the last few years. It's not uncommon for locals to come face-to-face with authorities in sometimes deadly confrontations, and there's also the risk of unexploded mines from the Khmer Rouge that continue to kill and maim people to this day. While some things may be looking up, Cambodia has a long way to go before its citizens can truly feel at peace.
8 Northern Cyprus - 44% Negative Experience Index
Northern Cyprus, officially the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, is divided from the rest of Cyprus by a UN Buffer Zone, and it's a self-declared state, separated from the rest of the island. There were some negotiations in 2002, but any chance of the island reuniting is currently on hold. Cyprus in general isn't doing so well economically, and the same goes for Northern Cyprus.
7 Cyprus - 45% Negative Experience Index
Northern Cyprus has one thing in common with the rest of the island: They're both pretty miserable. In 2004, Cyprus was one of 10 new states to join the EU, but they did so divided from Northern Cyprus. And in 2012, the economy of Cyprus was hit with a dramatic blow, affected by the recession in Greece, and the country was forced to ask for emergency financial help from the European Union. Also in 2012, the UN canceled plans for a conference in Cyprus due to a lack of progress being made between Cyprus and Northern Cyprus. With all this economic and political instability, it's no wonder the people on this island aren't feeling too positive about their lives.
6 Sierra Leone - 47% Negative Experience Index
The Civil War may have ended in 2002, but Sierra Leone is still dealing with the aftermath. Rebel leaders hacked off the limbs of their victims, and that's only the beginning of the atrocities inflicted upon the people of Sierra Leone. The country is also rich in minerals, especially diamonds, and has caused cross-border trafficking of what's known as “blood diamonds” – diamonds bought and sold to finance an insurgency. Even though the country has worked to put a stop to the blood diamonds, and there's been substantial economic growth recently, the nation's economy is still sluggish and most of the people still live in poverty. Even a decade after the war ended, many cities are still without roads, and many homes are without water and electricity.
5 Syria - 48% Negative Experience Index
Things haven't looked good for Syria in a while, and it's no wonder Syrians don't have a particularly positive outlook. The conflict in Syria has turned into an all-out civil war, with security forces using gunfire, tanks, and arrests to crush protests. There was some hope for Syria in 2008, but a violation of a UN ban on arming Lebanese militia led to the extension of U.S sanctions. And more sanctions came about in reaction to the deadly ways in which the government handled anti-government protesters. The National Coalition of the Syrian Revolution stands as a representative of the Syrian people, and they just might speak for the rest of the country when they say that their belief is that the Assad government is well beyond redemption.
4 Egypt - 50% Negative Experience Index
Egypt is a popular tourist destination that sees thousands of people flocking to see the pyramids and other ancient sites every year. However, for those currently living in Egypt, there's more to this country than many Westerners may realize, and not all of it is good. Nearly 50% of the country lives at and below the poverty level, and the government has to subsidize many of the necessities a family needs to survive. Recently, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to overhaul the program which makes up about a quarter of Egypt's budget. In the last few weeks, the cost of one type of fuel jumped up by 78%, causing taxi drivers to protest the increased costs and striking within the capital. Not to mention the fact that Egypt is experiencing a surge in population growth, straining the economy and the country's fairly limited resources.
3 Greece - 50% Negative Experience Index
Greece was hit pretty hard by the financial crisis of the last decade, and it's no surprise that the country's struggles are taking a toll on the people who live there. Between 2008 and 2013, Greece's economy shrunk by 23%, and some predict there's still more financial problems in the future. Greece received help during this crisis, which may have helped alleviate some of its debt burden, but unfortunately many of the restrictions that came along with accepting the help put more burdens on the citizens. These restrictions included huge cuts in public spending, which in turn led to record-high levels of unemployment. Currently, many areas are now facing the possibility of losing electricity due to employee strikes. This instability has led to unrest and an increase in violence against minorities, causing many within the country to feel unsafe and report overall negative experiences.
2 Iran - 53% Negative Experience Index
There was some hope for Iran in 2013 when the country elected moderate Hassan Rouhani as president. However, there are still obstacles the country will need to overcome before their people can feel like they're on a more positive path. Some sanctions were recently lifted for Iran thanks to a deal restricting uranium enrichment, but there's still a long way to go before things truly start looking up. Iran has had a long history of violent suppression between the conservatives and reformers, and there's little hope that the two sides will get along anytime soon. There's also the problem of jobs – there are just not enough, especially for the young (and over half the population is under the age of 25). Because of Iran's nuclear program, the country has been hit hard with sanctions and that's done major damage to the economy as a whole.
1 Iraq - 57% Negative Experience Index
If you keep up with the news, Iraq's standing on this list probably doesn't come as a surprise. Even after Saddam Hussein was removed from power, the country remains volatile to this very day. Insurgents have taken over areas of the country, and they continue to move into central and northern Iraq, threatening the country as a whole. Civilians are not safe from the attacks, and the insurgents have sometimes killed hundreds of people in one day. This is an issue that continues to persist, and some are urging the United States to get involved once again in order to put a halt to the violence. Some Pentagon officials have even recently commented that the security forces in Iraq are incapable of retaking the land seized by the insurgents without U.S intervention. With so much war and violence, it's not surprising the Iraqi people don't feel optimistic about their lives.