In the lead-up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was already in a more negative emotional state than it had been in years, with scores on Gallup's Negative Experience Index edging slightly higher to 31 in 2019. The index annually tracks people's experiences of stress, anger, sadness, physical pain and worry.
However, no other country in the world saw negative experiences skyrocket across the board as much as Lebanon. The country's Negative Experience Index score rose from 30 in 2018 to 48 in 2019 as political and economic turmoil gripped Lebanon.
Behind the overall scores, the percentage of Lebanese who experienced sadness more than doubled, from 19% to 40%, and nearly twice as many were angry in 2019 (43%) as in 2018 (23%). Levels of stress, worry and pain also soared to record levels in 2019.
In fact, Lebanese adults experienced the most emotional whiplash of any population in the world between 2018 and 2019; while their Negative Experience Index rose 18 points, their Positive Experience Index score also dropped 12 points. The percentage of Lebanese adults experiencing enjoyment, laughing or smiling a lot, or feeling well-rested suffered double-digit decreases.
Lebanese adults' ratings of their lives in general also dropped to a historic low in 2019, as hundreds of thousands of protesters demanded the complete overhaul of the country's political system. Just 4% of Lebanese rated their lives positively enough to be considered "thriving" - the worst score in Gallup's record for the country and one of the worst ratings in the world in 2019.
Only Afghanistan, which claimed the lowest Positive Experience Index score in the world for the second consecutive year, had worse thriving percentages than Lebanon. No Afghans rated their lives well enough to be considered thriving in 2019.
The emotions data suggest that people in many countries worldwide entered the pandemic in an already heightened negative state, which may not bode well for their post-pandemic lives. This includes countries on emotional roller coasters such as Lebanon, which saw a spike in coronavirus cases after a massive, deadly explosion in Beirut in August.
While Gallup does not have new numbers for Lebanon yet, there are already some early signs of an emotional toll in countries such as the U.S., where Americans' negative experiences in 2020 ticked upward. The Negative Experience Index rose from 30 to 32, as Americans were sadder than at most points in the past decade, with more than one in four (27%) reporting experiencing a lot of sadness.