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KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghans worry more, laugh less and are more pessimistic than any nation surveyed by Gallup since 2006, when the group began polling people about their general state of well-being.
The country has been at war for decades, and in recent month the Taliban and an upstart Islamic State affiliate have carried out near-daily attacks. The government is riddled with corruption and the economy is in ruins, despite billions of dollars in international aid in the 17 years since the U.S.-led invasion.
The poll, released last week, found that on a scale of one to 10 for how well people judge their chances for a better future five years down the road, Afghans averaged 2.3. Gallup called it a "new low for any country in any year."
The poll surveyed 1,000 Afghans in July, in face-to-face interviews, and had a 3.8 percent margin of error. Two-thirds of respondents were 35 years old or younger.
"Afghans' ratings of their own lives are lower than any other population worldwide," Steve Crabtree, senior editor and research analyst at Gallup, said in a report announcing the survey results. The survey highlights Afghans' "near universal lack of optimism," he added.
When asked about their day-to-day experiences, just 36 percent of Afghans surveyed said they recalled a smile or a laugh in the past 24 hours, down from 2016, when 52 percent said they found something to smile about. More than half of those surveyed this year said they spent most their day worried.
Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, a member of an Afghan government-appointed council tasked with finding a peaceful end to the war, described the conditions in his country as "hell."
"The poor people of Afghanistan have suffered a lot," he said. "This nobody can deny."
Almost none of the Afghans who were surveyed thought their economic situation would improve this year, and only 4 percent reported a better standard of living. Nearly 60 percent said there were times they couldn't afford food, and 50 percent said there were times they couldn't afford shelter.
Crabtree said it was the first time in 12 years of reporting that the group found a population who thought their future would be worse than their present.