The world’s most emotional countries

According to an on-going Gallup study, Americans and Spanish-speakers are the world’s most emotional people.  Not only that, they are happy to the point of exuberance.  Not so with Middle Easterners and former Communists.  From Max Fischer of the Washington Post, who goes so far as to provide a color-coded map of the world’s emotions:

Singapore is the least emotional country in the world. ”Singaporeans recognize they have a problem,” Bloomberg Businessweek writes of the country’s “emotional deficit,” citing a culture in which schools “discourage students from thinking of themselves as individuals.” They also point to low work satisfaction, competitiveness, and the urban experience: “Staying emotionally neutral could be a way of coping with the stress of urban life in a place where 82 percent of the population lives in government-built housing.”

The Philippines is the world’s most emotional country. It’s not even close; the heavily Catholic, Southeast Asian nation, a former colony of Spain and the U.S., scores well above second-ranked El Salvador.

Post-Soviet countries are consistently among the most stoic. Other than Singapore (and, for some reason, Madagascar and Nepal), the least emotional countries in the world are all former members of the Soviet Union. They are also the greatest consumers of cigarettes and alcohol. This could be what you call and chicken-or-egg problem: if the two trends are related, which one came first? Europe appears almost like a gradient here, with emotions increasing as you move West.

People in the Americas are just exuberant. Every nation on the North and South American continents ranked highly on the survey. Americans and Canadians are both among the 15 most emotional countries in the world, as well as ten Latin countries. The only non-American countries in the top 15, other than the Philippines, are the Arab nations of Oman and Bahrain, both of which rank very highly.

English- and Spanish-speaking societies tend to be highly emotional and happy. Though the Anglophone nations of the world retain deep cultural links, it’s not clear if Spain’s emotional depth has anything to do with Latin America’s. According to Gallup, “Latin America leads the world when it comes to positive emotions, with Panama, Paraguay, and Venezuela at the top of that list.” Yes, even Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela is apparently filled with happy people.

Africans are generally stoic, with some significant exceptions. The continent is among the world’s least emotional, though there is wide variation, which serves as a non-definitive but interesting reminder of Africa’s cultural diversity. Each could be its own captivating case study. It’s possible that South Africa’s high rating has to do with its cultural ties to Western Europe, for example, and Nigeria’s may have to do with the recent protest movement in the south and sectarian violence in the north.

The Middle East is not happy. Gallup notes, “Negative emotions are highest in the Middle East and North Africa, with Iraq, Bahrain, and the Palestinian Territories leading the world in negative daily experiences.” Still, that doesn’t quite fully explain the high emotions in the Levant and on the Arabian peninsula, compared to the lower emotions in Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. Perhaps this hints at how people in these countries are being affected by the still-ongoing political turmoil of the Arab Spring.

via A color-coded map of the world’s most and least emotional countries.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    All fine and good, I suppose, but the interesting thing in these is to look at the disaggregated data. It’s one thing to say “Americans are happy” and another to say “Iowans are emotional”, and yet another to say “Residents of Ottumwa are happy.”

    Also, there seems to be an equation of happy with emotional. From my experience, and maybe others can back me up, there is a range of emotions from happy to sad, joyous to despairing, foaming-at-the-mouth angry to placid and sedate. This study could be revealing, not the degree of happiness, but rather the emotional volatility of a country.

  • SKPeterson

    All fine and good, I suppose, but the interesting thing in these is to look at the disaggregated data. It’s one thing to say “Americans are happy” and another to say “Iowans are emotional”, and yet another to say “Residents of Ottumwa are happy.”

    Also, there seems to be an equation of happy with emotional. From my experience, and maybe others can back me up, there is a range of emotions from happy to sad, joyous to despairing, foaming-at-the-mouth angry to placid and sedate. This study could be revealing, not the degree of happiness, but rather the emotional volatility of a country.

  • Tom Hering

    I polled myself this morning and found that the blogger with the poorest taste in color schemes is the Washington Post’s Max Fisher.

  • Tom Hering

    I polled myself this morning and found that the blogger with the poorest taste in color schemes is the Washington Post’s Max Fisher.

  • SKPeterson

    There you go again, Tom. Disparaging people’s tastes in color. You must be so unhappy that wherever you live probably has some sort of mustardy yellow green aura all about it. Try to be more deep plum, okay?

  • SKPeterson

    There you go again, Tom. Disparaging people’s tastes in color. You must be so unhappy that wherever you live probably has some sort of mustardy yellow green aura all about it. Try to be more deep plum, okay?

  • Tom Hering

    Deep plum? I’ll go all the way, SK, and try to get myself into a black mood. Yeah, black. Fisher’s sense of color symbolism is a bit lacking, too. Grumble, gripe, spit. :-(

  • Tom Hering

    Deep plum? I’ll go all the way, SK, and try to get myself into a black mood. Yeah, black. Fisher’s sense of color symbolism is a bit lacking, too. Grumble, gripe, spit. :-(

  • SKPeterson

    Again the problem:

    Their survey asks five questions, meant to gauge whether the respondent felt significant positive or negative emotions the day prior to the survey. The more times that people answer “yes” to questions such as “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?”, the more emotional they’re deemed to be.

    The “emotional” tag seems to focus on happiness, not on the full range of emotion. The people in some of these countries may have deep emotions, but what if they are emotions of sadness or sorrow or grief? What if they cried or wailed loudly the day before? Is that somehow indicative of a lack of emotion?

    If you go to the Gallup site (http://www.gallup.com/poll/158882/singapore-ranks-least-emotional-country-world.aspx#1) you see that only one question has any recognition of the full range of emotion, what they term “positive” or “negative” emotions. However, Gallup relabels the average occurrence of positive or negative emotions as Positively Emotional v. Negatively Emotional, or even Happy v Sad, but rather Emotional v. Not. A misleading and poor choice of words to describe the phenomenon they are trying to capture. I’ll leave alone for the time being the questionable premise of even trying to measure emotion.

  • SKPeterson

    Again the problem:

    Their survey asks five questions, meant to gauge whether the respondent felt significant positive or negative emotions the day prior to the survey. The more times that people answer “yes” to questions such as “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?”, the more emotional they’re deemed to be.

    The “emotional” tag seems to focus on happiness, not on the full range of emotion. The people in some of these countries may have deep emotions, but what if they are emotions of sadness or sorrow or grief? What if they cried or wailed loudly the day before? Is that somehow indicative of a lack of emotion?

    If you go to the Gallup site (http://www.gallup.com/poll/158882/singapore-ranks-least-emotional-country-world.aspx#1) you see that only one question has any recognition of the full range of emotion, what they term “positive” or “negative” emotions. However, Gallup relabels the average occurrence of positive or negative emotions as Positively Emotional v. Negatively Emotional, or even Happy v Sad, but rather Emotional v. Not. A misleading and poor choice of words to describe the phenomenon they are trying to capture. I’ll leave alone for the time being the questionable premise of even trying to measure emotion.

  • SKPeterson

    there should be a “not” in the sentence: “However, Gallup relabels the average occurrence of positive or negative emotions as Positively Emotional v. Negatively Emotional…” so it reads “However, Gallup relabels the average occurrence of positive or negative emotions not as Positively Emotional v. Negatively Emotional…”

  • SKPeterson

    there should be a “not” in the sentence: “However, Gallup relabels the average occurrence of positive or negative emotions as Positively Emotional v. Negatively Emotional…” so it reads “However, Gallup relabels the average occurrence of positive or negative emotions not as Positively Emotional v. Negatively Emotional…”

  • Tom Hering

    Compare with the Happy Planet Index map.

  • Tom Hering

    Compare with the Happy Planet Index map.

  • Joe

    As a kid growing up in a Ukrainian family (material grandparents were post-WWII immigrants), I simply do not believe this survey can be accurate. My family is highly emotional and every emotion is immediately expressed, without any concept of a filter. My Grandmother will burst into tears of joy at meeting her newest great-grand child and 10 seconds later express her anger at the “stupid” name her grandchildren gave their child.

  • Joe

    As a kid growing up in a Ukrainian family (material grandparents were post-WWII immigrants), I simply do not believe this survey can be accurate. My family is highly emotional and every emotion is immediately expressed, without any concept of a filter. My Grandmother will burst into tears of joy at meeting her newest great-grand child and 10 seconds later express her anger at the “stupid” name her grandchildren gave their child.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I dunno about the rest of y’all, but I’m slap-happy.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I dunno about the rest of y’all, but I’m slap-happy.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Okay, what? Italy and Germany are equally emotional? Clearly we are not talking about the same concept here.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Okay, what? Italy and Germany are equally emotional? Clearly we are not talking about the same concept here.

  • SKPeterson

    Todd – Did you let out a large guffaw during your pastor’s sermon, yesterday? Did your fellow parishioners and your family respect you? Were you well rested? If you answered yes to all of the above, you are hap-hap-happy. Congratulations! If no, then you are a dismal worrywart and should probably be on some sort of mood altering medication.

  • SKPeterson

    Todd – Did you let out a large guffaw during your pastor’s sermon, yesterday? Did your fellow parishioners and your family respect you? Were you well rested? If you answered yes to all of the above, you are hap-hap-happy. Congratulations! If no, then you are a dismal worrywart and should probably be on some sort of mood altering medication.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SK (@11), trust me, if I’m happy, I’ll let you know it! And I’ll do so by clapping my hands, thusly: [clap clap].

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    SK (@11), trust me, if I’m happy, I’ll let you know it! And I’ll do so by clapping my hands, thusly: [clap clap].

  • Jack

    This chart totally bullish, and there are many reason that they put it online with graphic to manipulate people… shame..


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