Study indicates people by nature are universally optimistic

May 24, 2009
At the country level, optimism is highest in Ireland, Brazil, Denmark, and New Zealand and lowest in Zimbabwe, Egypt, Haiti and Bulgaria. The United States ranks number 10 on the list of optimistic countries. Credit: University of Kansas/Gallup

Despite calamities from economic recessions, wars and famine to a flu epidemic afflicting the Earth, a new study from the University of Kansas and Gallup indicates that humans are by nature optimistic.

The study, to be presented Sunday, May 24, 2009, at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in San Francisco, found optimism to be universal and borderless.

Data from the Gallup World Poll drove the findings, with adults in more than 140 countries providing a representative sample of 95 percent of the world's population. The sample included more than 150,000 adults.

Eighty-nine percent of individuals worldwide expect the next five years to be as good or better than their current life, and 95 percent of individuals expected their life in five years to be as good or better than their life was five years ago.

"These results provide compelling evidence that optimism is a universal phenomenon," said Matthew Gallagher, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas and lead researcher of the study.

At the country level, optimism is highest in Ireland, Brazil, Denmark, and New Zealand and lowest in Zimbabwe, Egypt, Haiti and Bulgaria. The United States ranks number 10 on the list of optimistic countries.

Demographic factors (age and household income) appear to have only modest effects on individual levels of optimism.

Source: University of Kansas

Explore further: Researchers find why depression and aging linked to increased disease risk

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Men more optimistic than women on economy

Dec 11, 2007

Men are more optimistic than women about the economic outlook, Massey finance researchers say. Using consumer confidence data from 18 countries, they have identified a difference in outlook between sexes.

Blissfully ignorant: Skip those pesky details

Sep 15, 2008

Wouldn't you like some more information about that cream puff? Not if you just ate it. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research examined what's known as the "Blissful Ignorance Effect," the way consumers' goals shift ...

Recommended for you

Fairness is in the brain

2 minutes ago

Ever wondered how people figure out what is fair? Look to the brain for the answer. According to a new Norwegian brain study, people appreciate fairness in much the same way as they appreciate money for themselves, ...

Something in the way we move

14 minutes ago

Being depressed is depressing in itself and makes you feel even worse. That is one reason why it is so hard to break out of depressive conditions.

YouTube as peer support for severe mental illness

Oct 17, 2014

People with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder use a popular social media website like YouTube to provide and receive naturally occurring peer support, Dartmouth researchers ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

designmemetic
not rated yet May 25, 2009
credibility issue.
Faulty assumption of causal relationship between data and conclusion in headline. False generalization from current state of mood to assume this mood is always true. example 5 years ago everyone polled thought housing prices would rise does not result in conclusion that housing prices rising is universal phenomenon.
Alexa
not rated yet May 25, 2009
Naturally optimistic? This is exactly, what I'm afraid of all the time... 8-(