The World's Most (and Least) Emotional Countries

Forget all the stereotypes about the reserved English or the hotblooded Italian. When it comes to being least emotional, Singapore is the coolest, while the Philippines is red hot. This is according to a new study released recently by polling firm Gallup, which conducted a three-year survey of every country in the world.

Read: The World’s Most (and Least) Emotional Countries

The survey asked respondents ten separate questions, five related to whether they had recently had positive emotional experiences, such as laughing or learning something new, and five negative emotional experiences, such as feeling pain or stress. Many of the countries with residents responding “yes” to both the positive and negative emotions are in Latin America. Many of the countries that generally exhibited little emotional response are located in the former Soviet bloc. Based on Gallup’s survey, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the most and least emotional countries in the world.

A study conducted by Nobel laureate economist Daniel Kahneman determined that while having some income was important to happiness, income above a certain point — the equivalent of roughly $75,000 U.S. — made no difference in improving a person’s emotional state.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Gallup partner Jon Clifton explained that income is not the determining factor for whether people have healthy emotional lives. “If you’re talking about how someone evaluates their lives, then “yes,” the more income they have, the better. But on the emotional side, after $75,000 per year, income makes less of an impact on how people experience their lives.”

While Gallup has not published findings on the extent to which the most emotional countries experienced primarily positive emotions, that is clearly the case. The most emotional countries, located primarily in Latin America the Arabian Gulf, are not the most prosperous countries. GDP per capita in the Philippines, the most emotional country in the world, was 99th worldwide. In El Salvador, GDP grew just 1.4% between 2010 and 2011 — among the smallest economic growth in the world — yet an average of 83% of residents answered yes to all questions related to positive emotions.

Meanwhile, many of the world’s wealthiest countries reported experiencing very little emotion of any kind — positive or negative. For example, in Singapore, which has among the highest GDP per capita in the world, an average of just 36% responded “yes” to all ten questions. In Kazakhstan, GDP growth between 2001 and 2011 was among the largest in the world, and yet the country ranked as the fifth least emotional in Gallup’s study.

The countries that experienced the most emotions overall were not necessarily all positive. For example, Bahrain was the third most emotional country. During the three-year period of the study, the average rate of “yes” responses to all five negative emotion questions was 45%, one of the highest rates in the world.

In order to identify the most (and least) emotional countries, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Gallup’s study on the emotional state of the world. The study surveyed thousands of residents in 151 countries, asking them ten questions, five meant to reflect positive emotions, and five meant to reflect negative emotions. The percent of citizens responding “yes” to each of these ten questions were averaged together, determining a country’s level of emotion. In addition, 24/7 Wall St. considered data from the IMF and World Bank for the most recent available year. Constant prices are used when change in GDP is calculated, but current prices are used for expressing GDP per capita. While the main study covers three years, we also reviewed Gallup data on the average response rate for the five negative questions from just 2011. For the five most emotional countries, Gallup provided the rate of response for both the positive and negative emotions for all three years.

These are the most and least emotional countries.

The Least Emotional Countries

> Pct. reporting all of above: 38% (tied-4th highest)
> Life expectancy: 69.4 years
> GDP per capita: $1,070.01
> Higher education enrollment: 48.8%

Just 13% of people in Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, claimed to feel anger, stress, worry or sadness daily in 2011. In recent years there has been significant turmoil in the Central Asian country. In 2010, Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev resigned following violent protests against his administration. The year before, Bakiyev had been elected president for a second term in an election that both his opposition and observers claimed was fraught with ballot box-stuffing. Still, according to another Gallup study, as of last year just 3% of of residents were pessimistic about their lives in the next five years — less than the majority of nations studied.

9. Nepal
> Pct. reporting all of above: 38% (tied-4th highest)
> Life expectancy: 68.7 years
> GDP per capita: $622.50
> Higher education enrollment: N/A

Last year, Nepal’s GDP per capita was just $622.50, also lower than most countries in the world, the nation’s Maoist leadership is currently working towards forming a unified government to hold elections after failing for years to draft a constitution. According to Gallup, just 8% of women that wished to work in Nepal were employed either full time or part time, lower than nearly every other country in the world. Despite these troubles, just 6% of citizens last year expected their lives to be worse in five years, while just 22% say they have negative feelings daily.

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8. Kazakhstan
> Pct. reporting all of above: 38% (tied-4th highest)
> Life expectancy: 68.3 years
> GDP per capita: $11,167.01
> Higher education enrollment: 40.8%

Kazakhstan’s economy has gotten much stronger in recent years. The unemployment rate in the ex-Soviet republic was 5.4% as of 2011, which was down from more than 7% in 2007 and more than 10% in 2001. Annual inflation has hovered in the 7% to 8% range during the past several years, but it is down from more than 17% in 2008. Although residents are not exhibiting strong emotions, they are not pessimistic about their future either. Only 5% expect their lives to be worse in the next five years, which is among the lowest rate among all countries.

7. Belarus
> Pct. reporting all of above: 38% (tied-4th highest)
> Life expectancy: 70.4 years
> GDP per capita: $5,844.66
> Higher education enrollment: 83.0%

In 2011, Belarus had the world’s highest inflation rate. Average consumer prices rose 53.2% year-over-year, more than twice as much as any other country. The former Soviet republic is run by president Alexander Lukashenko, who is often criticized as a dictator. Yet many residents have remained emotionally indifferent, according to Gallup’s survey. One possible reason could be that, in many ways, life has improved in recent years: enrollment in higher education increased from 55.9% of the age appropriate population in 2001 to 83% in 2010, while the country’s poverty rate fell from 28.9% in 2001 to 5.4% in 2009.

6. Ukraine
> Pct. reporting all of above: 38% (tied-4th highest)
> Life expectancy: 70.3 years
> GDP per capita: $3,623.94
> Higher education enrollment: 79.5%

The global recession was especially hard on Ukraine’s economy. The ex-Soviet nation’s GDP fell by 14.8% in 2009, more than almost any other country in the study except Latvia and Lithuania. At the same time, Ukraine’s unemployment rate jumped from 6.4% in 2008 to 8.8% in 2009. It has only slowly begun to get closer to pre-recession levels. The current presidential administration is requiring citizens to convert foreign money into the national currency in an attempt to stabilize the economy. Perhaps in response to the fact that many residents often use the U.S. dollar in place of the national currency, the hryvnia, according to the Financial Times. Despite these struggles, 15% of Ukrainians surveyed by Gallup last year were pessimistic about the next five years.

5. Madagascar
> Pct. reporting all of above: 38% (tied-4th highest)
> Life expectancy: 66.7 years
> GDP per capita: $453.12
> Higher education enrollment: 3.7%

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world with an estimated GDP per capita at just $453.12 as of 2011. In recent years, the island country off the southeastern African coast has experienced relatively high inflation, reaching the low-double-digits. Both life expectancy and infant mortality, although far from the worst in the world, are generally substandard compared to developed countries. Nevertheless, Madagascar residents haven’t fallen into a state of pessimism. Only 2% of residents expect their lives to be worse in the next five years, which is one of the lowest rates in the world. In addition, only 22% of residents experienced negative emotions on a daily basis, less than highly developed countries such as the United States (32%) and France (29%).

4. Russia
> Pct. reporting all of above: 38% (tied-4th highest)
> Life expectancy: 68.8 years
> GDP per capita: $12,993.36
> Higher education enrollment: 75.9%

Russia has recovered well from the effects of the global financial crisis. The country’s unemployment rate, which jumped from 6.4% in 2008 to 8.4% in 2009, fell back to 6.5% last year. GDP also recovered, and after a severe 7.8% contraction in 2009, GDP rose by 4.3% in both 2010 and 2011. President Vladimir Putin has admitted that changes in trade policies arising from Russia joining the World Trade Organization would likely hurt the economy in the short run. The country joined the WTO in August after 18 years of  seeking membership. A recovering economy could explain why so few Russians compared to the rest of the world had negative feelings in 2011, when just 15% of citizens expected their lives to be worse in five years. Then again, with one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, it is unlike that an improved economy could improve the mood much.

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3. Lithuania
> Pct. reporting all of above: 37%
> Life expectancy: 73.3 years
> GDP per capita: $13,262.20
> Higher education enrollment: 74.0%

As of 2009, the Former-Soviet country had a 99.7% literacy rate, one of the highest rates in the world. However, the unemployment rate in the country was near 18% in 2010, and was over 15% in 2011. While employment has improved in recent years, the economy appears to be slowing. Lithuania elected leaders in last month’s parliamentary elections who vowed to raise the minimum wage and consider an overhaul of the tax system, which has caused some uncertainty in the economy.

2. Georgia
> Pct. reporting all of above: 37%
> Life expectancy: 73.3 years
> GDP per capita: $3,210.30
> Higher education enrollment: 28.2%

Although higher education enrollment in other former Soviet-countries such as Russia, Lithuania and Ukraine was in the 70% range, Georgia’s higher education enrollment was much lower at just over 28% in 2011. In October, Georgia voters replaced current pro-Western president Mikhail Saakashvili with billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that although Saakashvili has overseen policy implementation that has reduced crime and corruption and opened the small country up to foreign investment, the country’s poverty rate remains near 2003 levels, when the outgoing president first took office. Despite these issues, only 6% of Georgians expect their lives to be worse in the next five years.

1. Singapore
> Pct. reporting all of above: 36%
> Life expectancy: 81.6 years
> GDP per capita: $49,270.87
> Higher education enrollment: N/A

Singapore is a highly developed economy. The Asian country’s estimated GDP per capita in 2011 was higher than the U.S.’s $48,327.86, and it also had the lowest infant mortality rate in the world. Residents feel very safe in the country, with 88% of women and 91% of men feeling safe at night, one of the highest rates in the world. Singapore’s economy has almost doubled in the last ten years due to the country’s strong  financial, pharmaceutical, and electronic industries. While people in Singapore are the least emotional they certainly aren’t negative in their day-to-day life — the country was ranked the seventh-lowest in a 2011 Gallup survey studying negative emotions.

The Most Emotional Countries

5. Colombia
> Pct. reporting all of above: 55%
> Life expectancy: 73.6 years
> GDP per capita: $7,114.33
> Higher education enrollment: 39.1%

Between 2009 and 2011 just 29% of Columbia’s residents had negative feelings on a daily basis, less than any of the other most emotional countries. Colombians were also extremely optimistic about the future, with just 7% of those surveyed in 2011 saying they believed their lives would be worse in five years. In recent years, the South American country’s economic growth accelerated sharply, with GDP growth jumping from 1.7% in 2009 to an estimated 5.9% in 2011. Recently the country cut interest rates as growth has been slowing. There’s also a growing chance that peace talks may finally resolve the conflict between the government and rebel group FARC, ending five decades of violence.

4. Oman
> Pct. reporting all of above: 55%
> Life expectancy: 73.3 years
> GDP per capita: $23,572.36
> Higher education enrollment: 24.5%

Oman residents experience much more positive emotions than negative ones at 79% vs 31%, according to the Gallup survey. According to another recent Gallup survey, 69% of all adults in Oman, located on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, believe their local job market is good, tied with Saudi Arabia for the highest among all countries. Perhaps that is why the Arab Spring left the country relatively untouched. Former leader Sultan Qaboos also implemented reforms, including the creation of government jobs, a minimum wage hike and cost-of-living allowances to public-sector employees, to prevent the protests that took place in other countries. Despite these  gestures, the country has cracked down on free speech as of late, with scores of people arrested in 2011 and 2012 for publishing critical opinions of the Sultan on the Internet.

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3. Bahrain
> Pct. reporting all of above: 56%
> Life expectancy: 75.2 years
> GDP per capita: $22,918.17
> Higher education enrollment: N/A

Residents of the Persian Gulf island country of Bahrain are among the world’s most emotional countries. They are also among the most likely to have negative feelings. From 2009 to 2011, 45% of resident surveyed told Gallup they experienced negative emotions daily. Last year, residents were more likely to have negative emotions than those of every other country surveyed except for Iraq and the Palestinian Territories. The government used many means to break up protests during the Arab Spring, and protesters often claimed police brutality. In one incident, the country’s military forces opened fire on protesters. In December, a United Nations team will travel to Bahrain to address the kingdom’s recent human rights record.

2. El Salvador
> Pct. reporting all of above: 57%
> Life expectancy: 71.9 years
> GDP per capita: $3,854.98
> Higher education enrollment: 23.4%

Among the most emotional countries, the Central American country of El Salvador is the most positive, with 83% of people claiming to feel positive emotions on a daily basis. Residents were likely to experience negative emotions as well. Of those surveyed by Gallup between 2009 and 2011, 31% reported having daily negative emotions, with the proportion even higher at 35% in 2011 alone. Last year, 20% of residents also claimed to be pessimistic about their lives in the near future, one  of the world’s higher rates.

1. Philippines

> Pct. reporting all of above: 60%
> Life expectancy: 68.8 years
> GDP per capita: $2,344.89
> Higher education enrollment: 28.9%

The Philippines is the world’s most emotional country. Of residents surveyed between 2009 and 2011, 82% claimed to have experienced positive emotions daily and 37% claimed to have experienced negative emotions. Although GDP per capita remains lower than 98 other nations Gallup surveyed, at an estimated $2,344.89 in 2011, the Philippines has grown significantly. Holding prices constant, the country’s GDP has risen 7.6% in 2010 and 3.9% in 2011. Despite a slowdown in the world’s developed economies, both Filipino consumers and the government continue to spend, offsetting slowing export growth.

Michael B. Sauter, Alexander E. M. Hess and Samuel Weigley

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