World a 'Sadder, Angrier' Place in 2020 Than Any Time Since Gallup 'Emotions Report' Began

People in a majority of countries across the globe reported record levels of stress, anger and worry, with Gallup's latest Global Emotions survey showing that income inequality and corruption were major factors in addition to COVID-19.

The 2021 global Gallup report ranked countries in terms of both positive and negative emotions—including sadness, enjoyment, smiling and feelings of respect. The massive survey of 160,000 people found that stress increased in more than half of the 116 countries involved in the study, meaning nearly 190 million people experienced significantly higher stress in 2020 than in years past.

The percentage of people worldwide who said they smiled or laughed during the previous 24 hours dropped five full points from 2019 to a record-low in the poll's 15-year history.

An all-time record-high of 40 percent of adults worldwide said they experienced a lot of stress on the day before their survey, with "double-digit increases in stress" occurring across 21 countries.

"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 Gallup poll organizers wrote in the full survey released Friday.

More than four in 10 Americans (41 percent) reported feelings of worry, with nearly half of U.S. adults (49 percent) saying the same for stress. More than one in four Americans (27 percent) expressed sadness and 18 percent reported added feelings of anger.

Countries with large gaps between the rich and poor people saw dramatically higher rates of negative emotions, particularly anger. Economic data showed that half of worldwide workers said they earned less money because of COVID-19 and one-third lost their job since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Negative experiences cumulatively hit their highest level since Gallup began the emotions report, with the index score for people expressing feelings of stress, worry, anger or sadness rising to 32. Additionally, negative experiences were reported by overwhelming majorities in countries affected by vast income inequality and government corruption.

Women with young children were hit the hardest in terms of stress levels.

Gallup Global Managing Partner Jon Clifton highlighted that while the COVID-19 pandemic clearly played a major role, negative emotions have increased steadily for the past 10 years.

But Clifton also noted that the 2021 report focused on how the concerning trend of "widespread negative emotions [has historically been] devastating for societies."

Clifton highlighted the book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, which discussed how suicide, alcohol poisoning and opioid overdoses have "single-handedly contributed to the national decline in life expectancy" in the United States. White males without college degrees were the most targeted demographic by this 10-year trend.

Newsweek reached out to the study's authors at Gallup for any additional remarks or context.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the percentages of Americans reporting negative emotions and mistakenly described the index score of 32 as a percentage.

Gallup Global Emotions report
Stock photo. People in a majority of countries across the globe reported record levels of stress, anger and worry, with Gallup's latest Global Emotions survey showing that income inequality and corruption were major factors in addition to COVID-19. istock/Getty/chameleonseye