Special Report

Eight Countries Where the Most People Suffer

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During the global financial crisis, suffering increased globally. According to a survey recently published by Gallup, 14% of the world’s population was suffering in 2012, compared to 11% on average before the recession began. In the United States, only 4% of the people surveyed reported being unhappy with their lives last year, up only slightly from 3% last year.

In some parts of the world, conditions are much more dire. In Bulgaria, the country with the worst numbers, 39% of the population was suffering in 2012, according to recent poll published by Gallup earlier this week. In eight countries, 30% or more of the population rated their life satisfaction as a four or worse on a scale of 1-10. These countries are plagued by disease, extreme poverty, political corruption and armed conflict.

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Syria, which doesn’t quite make the list with 29% of the population suffering in 2012, is embroiled in a civil war. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his administration has been accused of using chemical weapons on civilians. Since the conflict began in 2011, more than 125,000 people, more than 40,000 of which were civilians.

In many of the countries with highest levels of suffering, however, war does not appear to be a key factor. According to Gallup Analyst Jan Sonnenschein, suffering can be traced to extreme dissatisfaction with the local governments. “In Bulgaria, Hungary, and Armenia, there isn’t a civil war, like in Syria.” Instead, residents are “extremely disappointed with their leaders because they haven’t seen any progress whatsoever.”

This disappointment in leaders is often a product of high levels of corruption, explained Sonnenschein. In Bulgaria, more than 3 in 4 residents said the country’s political parties were corrupt, one of the highest rates in the world, according to Transparency International. Students in the country recently led another wave of protests as allegations of corruption continue to be raised against the government.

While unemployment rates are not available for all of these countries, many had among the highest levels of unemployment in the world. Macedonia, for example, had an unemployment rate of more than 30% in 2012, the highest of any nation reporting to the International Monetary Fund. Nearly all of the countries with high levels of suffering had unemployment rates in excess of 10%.

Extreme poverty is also a factor in some of these unhappy countries, Sonnenschein explained. Haiti, for example, is still reeling from a devastating earthquake in 2010. “Haiti is still the poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean. The international community is pulling out slowly, and I believe they haven’t met many of their goals to reconstruct the island and the economy.”

Haiti is not the only suffering country with a weak economy. GDP per capita of four of the eight countries with the highest rates of suffering population was less than $6,000 in 2012. Madagascar’s GDP per capita was less than $1,000 that year, among the lowest levels for the eight countries.

To identify the countries suffering the most, 24/7 Wall St. examined Gallup’s Global Suffering survey of 143 countries. We reviewed the eight countries where more than 30% of the people surveyed in 2012 rated their current life satisfaction as a four or worse on a scale of 1-10 in 2012. They also expected their life satisfaction five years in the future to be a four or worse as well. In addition to Gallup’s results, we reviewed International Monetary Fund data on GDP per capita, GDP, and unemployment, all for 2012. We also reviewed public perception of corruption from Transparency International 2013 Corruption Perception Index. Additional country-specific data came from the CIA World Factbook, the U.S.State Department, and, the IMF.

These are the eight countries where people suffer the most.

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