Suffering on a Global Scale

  • Ronald E. AndersonEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Well-Being and Quality of Life Research book series (BRIEFSWELLBEING)


This project helps locate suffering and its severity around the world, showing how public policy could more effectively reduce suffering and increase societal well-being. The research in this chapter creates and validates indicators for both subjective and objective suffering on a global scale. A life satisfaction measure adapted from the Gallup-Healthways surveys of well-being in 123 countries is used as a social indicator of subjective suffering, while indictors of the prevalence of social traumas like HIV illness, hunger, infant deaths, and poverty function as measures of objective suffering. With this objective measure of suffering, it is now possible to estimate that at least one billion people—a seventh of the worldwide population are in major physical pain at any one time. Gender inequality appears in this analysis as a significant predictor of objective suffering, which implies that gender inequality is a significant cultural barrier to the reduction of suffering. Satisfactory social support networks also were found to help explain variation in national suffering. One interesting finding was that subjective suffering tends to be substantially lower than objective suffering in Latin American countries and a few African countries, and it appears to be related to social solidarity, especially in the family and community.


Suffering Global suffering  Social suffering  Pain  Human development index  GDP  Subjective suffering  Objective suffering  Hunger  Poverty  Purpose  Social support  Religion 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MinnesotaWayzataUSA

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