The findings come from the second iteration of the World Risk Poll, which was commissioned by global safety charity Lloyd’s Register Foundation and undertaken by analytics firm Gallup. The study — which surveyed more than 125,000 people across 121 countries — found that 34 percent of people feel less safe now than they did five years ago. This is an increase of four percent since the first poll in 2019, with the largest shifts in Central/Western Africa and South-eastern Asia.
The most oft-cited threats to people’s safety were road traffic accidents (13 percent of respondents), crime and violence (12 percent) and non-Covid health issues (10 percent).
Despite the pandemic that killed millions around the globe, just seven percent of those polled cited COVID-19 as a perceived risk, placing it as only the fourth top concern.
Lloyd’s Register Foundation Director of Evidence and Insight Dr Sarah Cumbers said: “The World Risk Poll is designed to provide insight for policymakers into which risks are most affecting the lives of populations across the world.
“Our findings will help them work with communities to make people safer.
“The latest World Risk Poll paints a detailed picture of people’s attitudes towards risk in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the midst of a global crisis of this magnitude, people continue to face many other risks that demand their attention, and which shape their decisions and opportunities.
“Governments and other policymakers must work with communities to build strategies to protect people from future pandemics that also account for the other risks they may now find themselves even more vulnerable to.”
According to the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, the two areas where people’s experience of harm has increased the most from 2019 to 2021 are severe weather and mental health.
The percentage of people worldwide who reported that they or someone they knew had experienced serious harm from severe weather events increased from 22 to 27 percent between 2019 and 2021.
The report reveals that more than two-thirds of people view climate change as a serious threat to their country — including two-fifths who called it a “very serious threat”.
Psychologist Professor Wändi Bruine de Bruin of the University of Southern California said: “Climate scientists have been warning about climate change for decades.
“Public opinion initially did not reveal much concern, including in the 2007 Gallup World Poll. The 2019 World Risk Poll marked a big shift and showed that over two-thirds of people thought of climate change as a threat.
“That figure remains similar in 2021, despite the pandemic and associated economic problems, which suggests that climate change remains front-of-mind for a majority of people across the world.”
The poll also revealed that experience of severe weather and education level play a key role in determining to what extent people view climate change as a threat.
Professor Bruine de Bruin said: “People are more likely to be concerned about climate change when they have experienced severe weather, and when they have the education to recognise it is climate change.”
The poll revealed that 61 percent of people with at least post-secondary education who had experienced harm from severe weather viewed climate change as a very serious threat, compared to just 39 percent of those with only a primary-level education or less.
Professor Bruine de Bruin added: “Climate change communications have likely maintained this educational barrier.”
Such communications, she explained, “are often written at the university level and use terms such as ‘adaptation’ and ‘mitigation’ that many people find confusing.
“So, this finding really highlights the importance of making climate change easier to everyone to understand — and act upon.”
On the mental health front, the proportion of people globally who had either directly experienced harm from mental health issues, or knew someone else who had, rose from 20 percent in 2019 to 25 percent in 2021.
According to the researchers, there is a “clear correlation” between the resources devoted to mental health and how much such issues affect those living in a specific region and country.
Serious harm from mental health issues is more likely in low- and lower-middle–income countries, where mental health services are less likely to be accessible.
The World Health Organization’s Mental Health Unit head Mark van Ommeren said: “The global increase in experienced harm from mental health issues shown by the World Risk Poll adds to a growing body of evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people around the world.
“We have seen rates of already common conditions such as depression and anxiety increase, while access to already scarce mental health services has been further impeded.
“As the poll shows, this is a truly global issue, and yet mental health is still neglected by most societies and health systems, putting millions of people around the world at increased risk of harm.
“Ultimately, there is no health without mental health, and so countries and policymakers in all countries must make a concerted and renewed effort to address the issue.”
A surprising result of the World Risk Poll concerned the underestimated risk of work-related harm — with 24 percent of respondents saying that they had or knew someone who had experienced serious harm from the work they did.
Despite this, only 19 percent of those polled said that they were “very worried” about such harm.
The opposite trend was spotted around violent crime — with 32 percent of respondents saying that they were “very worried” about this form of harm, despite such only being experienced or observed by 19 percent of those polled.
Professor Bruine de Bruin said: “People’s concerns about a risk are not just based on how likely it seems but also how bad it seems.
“People tend to worry more about risks that feel more dreadful, uncontrollable, and potentially gruesome. And those are the kinds of risks that get more media attention.
“So, that probably explains why most people worry more about getting harmed by violence than about getting harmed at work.”
The full findings of the report — which is titled “A Changed World? Perceptions and experiences of risk in the Covid age” — are published on the World Risk Poll website.