More people globally feel less safe than they did five years previously

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In 2021, over a third of people (34%) across the world said they felt less safe than they did five years previously, compared with 30% in 2019. The biggest regional rises were seen in Central and Western Africa, North America, and Southeast Asia.

However, while people have lived through a global pandemic for the last two years, Covid-19 was not seen as one of the top risks, with fewer than one in ten (7%) citing Covid-19 as the top source of risk in their daily lives – positioning it outside the top three perceived risks.

The World Risk Poll results show that even during an emergency such as a global pandemic, people continue to be impacted by other ongoing threats to their safety in their daily lives, particularly in regions with widespread poverty and instability. It’s a reminder for policymakers that there is a broad spectrum of competing risks that must be considered when influencing people’s safety-related choices and behaviour.

Most people globally did not see Covid-19 as their greatest risk.

Covid-19 ranked only fourth in global safety concerns, named by 7% of people as their top risk.

Perceptions of risk

Risks of road crashes and crime and violence were highest on the global list of perceived threats, with 13% of people naming road crashes and 12% citing crime and violence when asked to name, in their own words, the biggest risk to their personal safety.

While the Poll shows a slight but significant increase in people feeling less safe, it also highlights several contributing factors, including political and socio-economic. The data shows that people who view violence or political instability as their greatest risk were most likely to feel less safe than five years ago. The report also highlights a ‘dread effect’, where people worry more about the potential threats with more severe consequences, even if they are less likely. 

In Latin America, for example, where almost half (47%) of those aged 15-29 named crime and violence as the greatest threat to their safety, over a third (37%) of the population said they would move permanently to another country if given the chance – compared to 16% globally*.

*Data on willingness to migrate from the 2021 Gallup World Poll

Globally, more people feel less safe than they did five years previously.

The proportion of people who said they felt less safe than they did five years previously rose from 30% in 2019 to over a third (34%) in 2021.

Top risks experienced by people across the world

Mental health and severe weather were the areas of risk where people’s experience of harm increased most globally from 2019 to 2021. The proportion of people across the world who had experienced, or personally knew someone who had experienced, harm from mental health issues in the past two years rose from one in five (20%) in 2019 to a quarter (25%) in 2021. Similarly, the proportion of people who experience harm from severe weather increased by five percentage points, from 22% to 27%.

The rise in mental health issues was seen across regions and nations of different income levels, showing this is not just a ‘western’ problem and must be considered in all global health and development policies.

Mental health is one of the areas where experience of harm has increased most.

The number of people globally who had experienced, or personally knew someone who had experienced, harm from mental health in the past two years rose from 20% in 2019 to 25% in 2021.

“The World Risk Poll results provide us with valuable insight about people’s perceptions and experiences of risk, and while we can look at the results for different risks individually, it is important to consider how they may be linked. For example, worry about crime and violence could be having a major impact on an individual’s mental health, as could the economic consequences of a global pandemic. Policymakers must consider every part of the data when working with communities to help them navigate risk.”

Dr Sarah Cumbers
Director of Evidence and Insight, Lloyd’s Register Foundation

Overall, compared to five years ago, do you feel more safe, less safe, or about as safe as you did five years ago?