Are women getting more ‘angry’? What 10 years of research show

Are women getting more ‘angry’?  What 10 years of research show

An annual survey by the Gallup polling institute indicates that women around the world have been getting angrier over the last 10 years. But why is this happening?

Two years ago, Tahsha Renee was standing in her kitchen when she was overcome with an uncontrollable feeling of rage – she ended up screaming at the top of her lungs.

“Anger has always been an easy emotion to exploit,” he says.

But Tahsha had never felt anything like it.

It was in the middle of the pandemic and she was fed up. She had spent the previous 20 minutes walking around the house listing out loud everything that made her angry.

But after the scream she felt an intense physical release.

Tahsha, a hypnotherapist and life coach, has since brought women all over the world together on Zoom to talk about everything that makes them angry and then vent.

According to a BBC survey of 10 years of Gallup World Poll data, women are getting more irritable.

Every year, the survey polls more than 120,000 people in over 150 countries, asking, among other things, what emotions they felt during much of the previous day.

When it comes to negative feelings in particular – anger, sadness, stress and worry – women report feeling them more often than men.

The BBC analysis found that since 2012, more women than men have reported feeling sad and worried, although this has increased for both genders.

However, when it comes to anger and stress, the gap with men is widening. In 2012, both sexes reported anger and stress at similar levels. Nine years later, women are angrier – by a margin of six percentage points – and also more stressed. And there was particular variation at the time of the pandemic.

This does not surprise American therapist Sarah Harmont. In early 2021, she gathered a group of female patients to scream together.

“I’m a mother of two young children and I worked from home. I had a deep, intense frustration that was turning into full-blown anger,” she says.

A year later, she entered the field again. “That was the cry that went viral,” she says. It was picked up by a journalist in one of the online groups her mother was a part of, and from one hour to the next, Sarah started receiving phone numbers from reporters all over the world.

She believes it tapped into something women everywhere were feeling, an intense frustration that the burden of the pandemic was falling disproportionately on them.

A 2020 survey of nearly 5,000 parents in heterosexual relationships in England found that mothers took on more household responsibilities during lockdown than fathers. As a result, they have reduced their working hours. This happened even when they were the highest earners in the family.

In some countries, the difference between women and men who say they felt angry the day before is much greater than the global average.

In Cambodia, the difference was 17 percentage points in 2021, while in India and Pakistan it was 12.

Psychiatrist Lakshmi Vijayakumar believes this is the result of tensions that have arisen as more women in these countries have become educated, employed and economically independent.

“At the same time, they are tied down by archaic and patriarchal systems and culture,” she says. “The dissonance between a patriarchal system at home and an emancipated woman outside the home causes a lot of anger.”

Every Friday night during rush hour in Chennai, India, she witnesses this dynamic in action.

“You see men relaxing, going to a teahouse, smoking. And you find women running to the bus or train station. They are thinking about what to cook. Many women start cutting vegetables on the way back home in the morning. train.”

In the past, says Lakshmi, it wasn’t considered appropriate for women to say they were angry, but that’s changing. “Now there’s a little bit more ability to express your emotions, so the anger is greater.”

The effect of the pandemic on women’s work may also be having an impact. Prior to 2020, there was slow progress in women’s workforce participation, according to Ginette Azcona, data scientist at UN Women.

But in 2020 it stopped. This year, the number of women at work is projected to be below 2019 levels in 169 countries.

Progress for women?

To mark the 10th anniversary of BBC 100 Women, the BBC commissioned Savanta ComRes to ask women in 15 countries to compare today with 10 years ago.

  • At least half of women surveyed in each country say they feel more empowered to make their own financial decisions than they did 10 years ago
  • At least half in every country other than the US and Pakistan also think it is easier for women to discuss consent with a romantic partner.
  • In most countries, at least two-thirds of women surveyed said that social media had a positive impact on their lives – in the US and UK, however, the figure was below 50%.
  • In 12 out of 15 countries, 40% or more of women surveyed say that the freedom to express their opinions is an area where their lives have made the most progress over the last 10 years
  • 46% of US respondents think it is more difficult for women to access medically safe abortion than it was 10 years ago

“We have a sex-segregated job market,” says American feminist author Soraya Chemaly, who wrote about anger in her 2019 book, Rage Becomes Her.

She sees much of the pandemic-related burnout happening in female-dominated industries like healthcare.

“It’s pseudo-mothering and underpaid work. These people report very high levels of pent-up, suppressed, and deflected anger. And it has a lot to do with the expectation of working tirelessly. And without any kind of legitimate boundaries.”

“Similar dynamics are often found in heterosexual marriage,” she says.

In the United States, much has been written about the burden of the pandemic on women, but the results of the Gallup World Poll do not indicate that women are angrier than men.

“Women in America feel a very deep sense of shame about anger,” Chemaly points out, and may be more likely to report their anger as stress or sadness.

Perhaps this is why American women report higher levels of stress and sadness than men.

This is true elsewhere as well. Far more women than men said they were stressed in Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Cyprus and Greece.

In Brazil, more specifically, nearly six in 10 women said they had felt stressed for much of the previous day, compared to just under four in 10 men.

Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador also saw a large difference between the sexes. In Bolivia and Ecuador, nearly half of women said they had felt sad for much of the previous day – 15 percentage points more than men.

The trend of women reporting negative emotions more often than men dates back to at least 2012 in these countries and in many appears to be getting worse.

But Tahsha Renee thinks that many women in the United States and elsewhere have reached a point where they can say, “Enough!”

“In a way that’s really facilitating change. And they’re using their anger to do that,” he argues.

“You need fury and rage,” agrees UN Women’s Ginette Azcona. “Sometimes you need that to shake things up and get people to pay attention and listen.”


Gallup surveys more than 120,000 people annually in more than 150 countries and areas, representing more than 98% of the world’s adult population, using randomly selected nationally representative samples. Interviews are conducted in person or over the phone. The margin of error for the results varies by country and question. When sample sizes are smaller, for example when dividing a set of responses by gender, the margin of error will be greater. Full data tables for the 2021 Gallup Poll can be downloaded here.

Savanta ComRes surveyed 15,723 women aged 18+ online in Egypt (1,067), Kenya (1,022), Nigeria (1,018), Mexico (1,109), USA (1,042), Brazil (1,008), China (1,025), India (1,107 ), Indonesia (1,061), Pakistan (1,006), Saudi Arabia (1,012), Russia (1,010), Turkey (1,160), United Kingdom (1,067) and Ukraine (1,009) between October 17 and November 16, 2022. data were weighted to be representative of women in each country by age and region. The margin of error for each country’s results is +/- 3. Full data tables can be found here.

BBC 100 Women names 100 inspiring and influential women around the world every year.

Data Journalism by Liana Bravo, Christine Jeanavans and Helena Rosiecka🇧🇷 With reporting by Valeria Perasso and Georgina Pearce

This text was published here.

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