Stressfulness of Living Environments Across the States in Nigeria

In 2013, Bloomberg, an international news agency headquartered in New York, United States, ranked Nigeria as the most stressful country in the world. The country pipped another African country, South Africa to the top post. The Bloomberg researchers analyzed different variables in 74 countries including annual homicide rate, GDP per capita, insecurity, income inequality, corruption, unemployment, health care quality, crime rate, suicide rate and air pollution to arrive at their conclusion.

At the most basic level, stress is the body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. What contributes to stress can vary hugely from person to person and differs according to our genetic makeup, the environment we live in and our social and economic circumstances. The last three of which were focused on by the Bloomberg study.

Sometimes, stress response can be an appropriate, or even beneficial reaction. However, there can be times when stress becomes excessive and too much to deal with. If this level of stress is frequently encountered, or persists over time, the effects can result in wear and tear on the body. Feeling stressed for a long period of time is often called chronic, or long-term stress, and it can impact on both physical and mental health.

While stress is not a mental health diagnosis, it is however closely related to one’s mental health in two important ways:

  • Stress can cause mental health problems and make existing problems worse. One survey of recent studies found that people who had stress related to their jobs had an 80% higher risk of developing depression within a few years than people with lower stress.
  • Mental health problems can cause stress. Some people might find coping with the day-to-day symptoms of their mental health problem, as well as potentially needing to manage medication, heath care appointments or treatments, can become extra sources of stress.

This can start to feel like a vicious circle, and it might be hard to see where stress ends and where mental health problem begins. It also gives some credence to the Bloomberg report as Nigeria has Africa’s highest caseload of depression, and ranks 15th in the world in the frequency of suicide, according to World Health Organization (WHO). The health body also estimates that one in four Nigerians – some 50 million people – are suffering from some sort of mental illness.

However, Nigeria is not adequately equipped to deal with the problem as there are less than 150 psychiatrists in this country of 200 million, and WHO estimates that fewer than 10 percent of mentally ill Nigerians have access to the care they need.

With the lack of mental health staff and facilities, persistent underfunding and poor societal attitudes towards mental illness, Nigeria faces a mental health crisis making reform of its mental health law that is in keeping with international standards an urgent need to drive change. It is also important to tackle the factors that were highlighted in the Bloomberg report, as failure to do so might expose people to persistent high levels of stress that increases the risk of mental health issues.

With that in mind, we used the Bloomberg model to find out which were the most stressful environments amongst the states.

Our Methodology

Seven equally weighted variables were considered: violent crime rates, GDP per capita, income inequality, corruption perception, unemployment rate, environmental pollution and life expectancy.

The states were then allotted points for each variable based on their relative position in that category's ranking. The state with the least-stressful measure for each variable received 0 point, while the state with the highest stress level received 100 points. All other states were scored depending on their position between the two extremes. Points for the seven variables were averaged for a final score from 0 to 100, with a higher score indicating a more stressful living environment.

Violent Crime Rates

Research has shown that violent crime is a predominant contributing factor to the development of mental health problems, with victims having an elevated risk to most likely suffer from acute stress disorder (ASD) as well as the subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The violent crime rates for each of the states were obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics’ Crime Statistics Report for 2017. The category of the reported crimes used was offences against persons, which they stated are those offences against human beings — e.g. murder, manslaughter, infanticide, concealment of birth, rape and other physical abuse, etc. We got the number of such crimes committed in each state, and divided it by the projected population for each state in 2017 (obtained from Kingmakers.com.ng) and then multiplied it by 100,000 to get the violent crime rate.

GDP per Capita

A Gallup survey carried out in 2007 in more than 130 countries finds citizens from nations throughout Africa and in Central and South Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean reporting the lowest subjective well-being. Although the countries span many regions of the globe and may lack a common historical or cultural background, they did share similarities on key economic indicators, especially in having some of the lowest GDP per capita in the world.

The 2018 GDP per capita projections for each state as calculated by Kingmakers.com.ng were used.