In "Is the Emotion-Health Connection a "First-World Problem"?", psychologists Sarah D. Pressman, Matthew W. Gallagher, and Shane J. Lopez argue that emotional wellbeing is just as critical to the health of people in the developing world as their supposedly wimpy counterparts in rich countries, perhaps even more so:
Emotions have been shown to play a critical role in health outcomes, but research on this topic has been limited to studies in industrialized countries, which prevents broad generalizations. This study assessed whether emotion-health connections persist across various regions, including less-developed countries, where the degree to which people’s fundamental needs are met might be a better predictor of physical well-being.
Individuals from 142 countries (N = 150,048) were surveyed about their emotions, health, hunger, shelter, and threats to safety. Both positive and negative emotions exhibited unique, moderate effects on self-reported health, and together, they accounted for 46.1% of the variance. These associations were stronger than the relative impact of hunger, homelessness, and threats to safety and were not simply attributable to countries’ gross domestic products (GDPs). Furthermore, connections between positive emotion and health were stronger in low-GDP countries than in high-GDP countries. Our findings suggest that emotion matters for health around the globe and may in fact be more critical in less-developed areas.
Nigerian-American novelist Teju Cole blastedthe #firstworldproblems meme in an extended discussion on Twitter in 2011, calling it "false and condescending":
Yes, Nigerians struggle with floods or infant mortality. But these same Nigerians also deal with mundane and seemingly luxurious hassles. Connectivity issues on your BlackBerry, cost of car repair, how to sync your iPad, what brand of noodles to buy: Third World problems. All the silly stuff of life doesn't disappear just because you're black and live in a poorer country.
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War of Ideas is a blog on the theory behind the practice of global politics. Foreign Policy associate editor Joshua E. Keating brings you the latest research, data, and intellectual debates from around the world.