Conservatism may be the remedy for an increasingly unhappy world

If, on the one hand, the perception of unhappiness has grown among people around the planet, on the other hand, conservatism can be the way out to a happier world. This is what recent studies in the field of psychology point out. According to the latest edition of Gallup’s annual survey of negative experiences, released last month, the year of 2021 was the most unhappy, stressful and worrying year for people around the world since 2006, when the historical series began. The study does not separate respondents by political ideology, but previous surveys with replicated results show that conservatives are less prone to mental disorders than progressives, and individuals vulnerable to depression are less likely to identify with or vote for conservative parties, tending to be biased. against the right.

In the context of the pandemic, Soyoung Kwon, from the Department of Psychology and Sociology at Texas A&M University, investigated how these differences in mental health propensities according to political affiliation responded to the risks of Covid-19, with a sample of more of four thousand Americans. Soyoung confirmed that people on the right (in this case, those affiliated with the Republican Party) have suffered less distress in the pandemic. Also, what was the most interesting finding of the study, they respond better to risk perception: they adjust their level of anxiety to the perceived size of risk, while people on the left (Democrats) make a less refined adjustment of their emotions to perceived reality. and they always maintain higher levels of anguish. The two groups are only indistinguishable when the greatest perceived risk also corresponds to the greatest real risk.

Ten years ago, psychologist Barry Schlenker, from the University of Florida in Gainesville, together with two collaborators, already exposed with details, delays and four different samples that conservatives are happier than progressives. The conclusion stands when factors such as age, gender, income and educational level are excluded.

An explanation for the difference may be in the concept “oikophobia”, proposed by the British conservative philosopher Roger Scruton: a aversion of the left to its own home, to its own culture. Being uncomfortable with everything around you doesn’t seem to be conducive to happiness. Barry and his colleagues offer further explanation: Conservatives have more self-control, religiousness, moral clarity, tolerance for transgression, and satisfaction with society—which are also variables associated with more overall life satisfaction. Meanwhile, a replicated result on progressives shows that they are maliciously jealous of successful people.

More worry, stress and sadness

The emotional impact of the second year of the pandemic was greater for the world than the first, according to the Gallup poll, which mapped positive and negative experiences of adults in 122 countries and territories, in 2021. According to the findings, as uncertainties grew, the planet became a slightly more worried (with a two point increase) sad and stressed place (both with one point more) than the previous year. Only anger remained at equivalent levels, falling in relation to 2020.

The index of negative experiences is based on five questions, in which the respondents of the 82 countries report experiencing concern (61 %), stress (41%), physical pain (30), sadness (82 %) and anger (23%) the day before the interview. Taken together, the overall negative experience rate was 37%, on the rise since the beginning of the annual survey in 2006, when the index was 28%. The margin of error for Gallup statistics is 2 to 5.5 points plus or minus. A thousand people or more were heard per country.

The champion of unhappiness is Afghanistan, where only 20% or fewer of people say they had fun, felt well rested, or laughed; 69% of Afghans were worried, with most saying they were also stressed and sad. The country has been under Taliban control since President Joe Biden withdrew his troops in a manner widely considered disastrous. In addition to Afghanistan (32%), two other countries with the positive experience index below 61% are Lebanon (37%) and Turkey (42 %).

In 2021, people also reported feeling less rested (with a drop of three points in the item, compared to the previous year) and with less pleasure derived from the previous day (two-point drop). Although the mark of positive experiences in the previous day is still high, corresponding to 69%, the index has dropped for the first time since 2017. The stat is pretty stable, never going below 69% since 2006. Almost 90% said they were treated with respect the day before, and 90 % reported having fun and laughing a lot. The good news, therefore, is that there are more good experiences than disappointments in the world, based on this indicator.

Latin America is the champion of daily well-being. Brazil is not among the ten happiest in the sample, but neighboring Paraguay was third in the index of positive experiences, behind only Panama and Indonesia. El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua are on this list, tied for a 82% positive experience rate — a statistic based on responses to five questions about being well. rested; to have enjoyed joy; smile or laugh; respect; and learning or having done something interesting the day before.

Happiness according to objective criteria

A survey based on less subjective questions was also published by Gallup in March of this year. The World Happiness Report, with a larger sample of 146 countries, includes GDP per capita (the wealth per person), social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to making life choices, generosity, perceptions of corruption and dystopia (the opposite of utopia). Brazil occupied the 38 th position. When these objective wellness elements are added, the top of the list is dominated by Scandinavia, other European countries and, in ninth place, Israel. The tallest Latin Americans are Costa Rica (19º ) and Uruguay (24º).

Scholars have also devoted themselves over the past few decades to finding correspondences between indices of personal well-being and political convictions. And research shows that, compared to progressives, conservatives are less likely to have mental disorders. US General Social Survey (GSS) data — over 24 thousand respondents since the years 1970 — show that the difference in mental health between the most extreme adherents of these ideologies is equivalent to 65% of extremely progressives getting worse mental health “grades” than the average of “extremely conservatives”. Another way of interpreting this result is that there is a 61 % chance that a randomly chosen progressive will score higher on problems

The “extremely progressive” have a 150 % higher risk of mental disorders compared to the politically moderate , in the analysis of the GSS by psychometrician Emil Kierkegaard of the Ulster Institute for Social Research in London. Similar to the GSS is the European Social Research (ESS), used in an article by 2020 by Luca Bernardi, from the Policy Department at the University of Liverpool, UK.

Taking into account depression rates and political predispositions, Luca shows that individuals vulnerable to depression are less likely to identify with or vote for conservative parties, and to place themselves on the right on the political spectrum. As a background, the researcher also shows that depressed people are not more apolitical than other people, but have a bias against the right. This ESS database included 37 one thousand British households accompanied by 1991 to 2009.

Even in authoritarian facets, the protective effect of right leaning on mental health is known to science . In a study by 2009, the Belgian psychologists Alain Van Hiel and Barbara De Clercq, from Ghent University, showed, with a smaller sample, that the effects of distressing events on the life history are attenuated by higher levels of authoritarianism. It is important to remember that at this time social psychology had not yet recognized left-wing authoritarianism.

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