Which Countries Are Most (and Least) Emotional?

Ranking countries by their expression of negative and positive emotions

Posted Nov 23, 2012

A recent poll by Gallup measured positive and negative emotions in 150 countries and created an overall ranking of country ‘emotionality’.

Positive and Negative Emotions: The poll asked over 1,000 adults in each country whether they experienced five negative and five positive emotions a lot the previous day. Positive emotions were; feeling well-rested, feeling respected, smiling and laughing, enjoyment, and whether they engaged in something they found interesting. Negative emotions included; anger, stress, physical pain, worry, and sadness. The samples yielded three rankings: Countries that reported most positive emotions, countries that reported most negative emotions, and the overall most emotional countries (those who expressed most positive and negative emotions).

Most and Least Emotional Countries: When it came to overall reporting of emotions, the most ‘emotional’ country in the world is The Philippines, followed by El Salvador and Bahrain, Oman and Columbia, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Nicaragua (the United States came in as the 15th most emotional country). The least emotional country in the world was Singapore, followed by Georgia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

The study did not investigate the reasons for the abundance or poverty of emotional expressiveness. Whether the South American cluster of emotionally expressive countries and the East European/Eurasian cluster of emotionally inexpressive countries are caused by political, cultural, geographic, economic, or other factors, is unclear.

Happiest and Unhappiest Countries: Negative emotions were highest in the Middle East and North Africa (Iraq, Bahrain, and the Palestinian Territories led those rankings) and positive emotions were highest in Latin America (Panama, Paraguay, & Venezuela lead those rankings). Seeing regional clusters is not surprising, as countries in geographic proximity often share similar cultural norms that impact on how acceptable it is to express positive and negative emotions (although that is not always the case).

Why the Survey Is Important: These findings are interesting indicators of the emotional well-being of a country’s citizenship as a whole. Obviously, a country’s happiness or lack thereof is strongly related to factors such as poverty, war, and other national stressors. For example, people in The Palestinian Territories suffer from poor economic conditions, internal political strife, and war. They are at the high end of the negative emotion spectrum because the people there indeed have much to complain about.

Interestingly, the reverse is not necessarily true. A country’s wealth is not necessarily indicative of the well-being of its populace. Singapore, the least emotionally expressive country actually has the highest GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in the world and very low unemployment, yet, the people in the survey reported experiencing relatively few positive emotions.

For more about the psychology of expressing negative emotions and how it impacts our propensity to voice dissatisfactions, check out The Squeaky Wheel

Copyright 2012 Guy Winch

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