Extreme poverty is a more serious problem for the world than climate change, terrorism or the global economic recession, according to a new annual global poll across 23 countries conducted for BBC World Service.
When a global survey research firm, GlobeScan, interviewed more than 25,000 people on how serious they thought each of a range of global problems were, the following percentages of people rated these issues as ‘very serious’:
* 71% extreme poverty
* 64% the environment or pollution
* 63% the rising cost of food and energy
* 59% the spread of human diseases
* 59% terrorism
* 58% climate change
* 59% human rights abuses
* 58% the state of the global economy
* 57% war or armed conflict
* 48% violation of workers’ rights
In this year’s poll, poverty was rated as the most serious global issue in 10 of the countries polled, including in the UK, USA, Kenya, Australia, Brazil and Chile. However, in Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria more felt that the rising cost of food and energy was very serious.
The poll, which was conducted before the Copenhagen summit on climate change took place in 2009, also found that the Japanese were the only nation to regard climate change as the most serious global issue – although the Chinese and Costa Ricans identified environmental issues more generally or pollution as the most serious. China ranked climate change as the second most serious issue, whereas the US ranked it ninth.
The poll also found that Indians and Pakistanis rated terrorism as the number one concern, and a number of countries which have experienced terrorism also rated it among the top three most serious global problems – Indonesia, Spain, Turkey and the UK.
Egypt was the only country to rate the spread of human disease as the top issue, although Chile, China, Kenya, and Nigeria rated it in the top three.
If poverty is seen as the world’s most serious problem, it is not the most top-of-mind. When respondents were asked to name spontaneously ‘the most important issue facing the world today’, economic problems were most commonly cited, with one in four mentioning them (26%). Terrorism and war followed with 10%.
And while poverty was some distance ahead of other global issues in terms of how serious it was seen to be, it was only one of a number of issues that people had discussed with friends and family recently. The greatest number – 30% – said they had talked about rising food and energy costs with their friends and family recently, with extreme poverty and the spread of human diseases the second most discussed issues (29%) and the state of the global economy third (28%).
With recent terrorist attacks in their own countries still fresh in people’s minds, Indians, Pakistanis, Turks and Indonesians were most likely to say they had talked about terrorism recently with their friends and family.
In the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, China, Spain and Australia, the state of the global economy was the most discussed issue.
Brazilians, meanwhile, were the only country where the greatest number had discussed the environment with their friends and family over the previous month.
GlobeScan Research Director Sam Mountford said, “Even if the global recession has kept economic problems top of people’s minds this year, extreme poverty is clearly viewed as the world’s most serious global problem. But with many other global problems seen as very serious, this represents a daunting agenda for institutions like the UN and G20 to address.
“Over time, this poll will show us how public concern on global issues is shifting – and which issues are being discussed most often at dinner tables and workplaces around the world.”
The World Speaks is an annual poll from the BBC World Service focusing on what the world is worried about.
Meanwhile, reports THENEWS.COM.PK, Australian researchers say that people who spend more than four hours in front of the television each day have a far higher risk of dying earlier than those who limit their viewing.
Watching the small screen for prolonged periods is also bad for the heart, according to the research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Compared to people who watch less than two hours of television per day, people who watch more than four hours per day have a 46 percent higher risk of death from all causes,” researcher David Dunstan told foreign news agency. They also have an 80% increased risk from cardiovascular disease, he said.
Sitting down for long periods stops the body from using its muscles and adequately processing sugars and fats, Dunstan said.
The findings come from a six-year study into the viewing habits of some 8,800 Australians which stripped out the influence of other health factors such as age, sex, smoking, weight and exercise.