Global Decline in Affective Well-Being

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:45
Oral Presentation
Ronald ANDERSON, University of Minnesota, USA
Advances in international development require better methods for evaluating both procedures and outcomes. The need to carefully track human progress mandates that we develop better ways to assess outcomes and to link them back to development and other action programs. As this report demonstrates, greater accuracy in monitoring well-being depends upon improved measures of negative well-being such as suffering and the ongoing experience of negative emotions. Such an approach may give a very different view of the world than that provided by global economic indicators alone. Without better systems for monitoring changes in negative well-being, we lack the tools needed to shape human destiny.

Based upon the Gallup World Poll data used in this study, suffering and other negative experiences worldwide have been slowly increasing during the past decade, despite positive economic global growth. One way to characterize these findings is that the benefits of global economic growth have been overwhelmed by harmful forces such as ethnic conflicts, the so called ‘war on terror,’ widespread armed conflict and the resulting refugee crisis. Another culprit is the rising inequality of income and wealth. In a world where those trapped in poverty produce the highest population growth, any forces such as inequality of power, income and even suffering contribute to increasing negative well-being.

These findings lend support to international post-development and related theories that emphasize the importance of social forces other than economic growth. Positive well-being and the economic indicators remain flat across the past ten years, but negative indicators mostly have gone up. The global decline in well-being appears primarily among indicators of negative well-being. This finding calls into question the conventional wisdom that world poverty has been rapidly declining and global well-being rising.