People in Rich Countries Are More Stressed Out

An image of a stressed woman
Living in an affluent country may come with a bitter dose of worry and anger. (Image credit: Stressed woman photo via Shutterstock)

Although people who live in wealthy countries, including the United States, are generally more satisfied with their lives than people who live in poorer countries, they may experience more worry and anger than residents of poorer countries, according to a new study.

The higher stress level that typically comes with living in an affluent country might explain why these negative emotions seem to be more common in people living in richer nations.

"Life [in an affluent country] is more fast-paced, and there are just so many things that you have to do," said study author Louis Tay, an assistant professor of psychology at Purdue University.

"You have higher expectations, and more choices available to you, as compared to someone who might be in a poorer country, experiencing a slower pace of life and less demands," Tay told Live Science. [7 Things That Will Make You Happy]

Previous research has also found a relationship between increased levels of worry and stress. Studies also have shown a link between anxiety and having too many choices, because trying to make the best choice fast can stress people out.

In the study, the researchers examined income data from nearly 840,000 people in 158 nations. Participants also reported how satisfied they were with their lives, and whether they experienced various feelings, such as "worry," "sadness" and "anger."

People who lived in affluent countries were more likely to be satisfied with their lives than people who made the same amount of money but lived in a poorer country, the researchers found.

For instance, a person who earns $30,000 per year while living in the United States is more likely to be satisfied with his or her life than someone making the same amount of money in Zimbabwe, or another country whose national income is lower than that of the U.S., Tay said.

"Intuitively, I had always thought that the environment matters in terms of your happiness, but I was surprised to see that the level of income of your nation, above and beyond what you make, matters for your happiness as well," he said.

The general infrastructure and economic stability of a country, related to other potential issues, such as crime rates, might explain this relationship, he said.

The study was published April 22 in the journal Psychological Science.

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Staff Writer