HEALTHY BITE | Pessimism: Why Things Aren’t as Bad As We Think

Pessimism... It is easy to feel pessimistic with the constant bombardment of bad news but are things really as bad as we think?


This week we’re exploring the theme of pessimism. There’s no shortage of bad news to be had around the world. I thought it’d be really interesting to do a program on pessimism and in particular, this week’s guest is Dr. Natasha Moore from the Center for Public Christianity.

I’ve met Natasha several years ago. She worked as a research assistant at UNSW in the Department of Learning and Teaching. She had recently completed her Ph.D. at Cambridge, and she actually worked as a research assistant for my wife at UNSW. I had the pleasure of meeting Natasha, who was just a lovely individual, and then when she wrote a book called The Pleasures of Pessimism as she moved from UNSW to the Center for Public Christianity, then that was an opportunity for me to talk to her about the book that is very accessible.

It’s really a relatively short book, but it’s well worth the read and it’s beautifully written. We talked about pessimism, the pleasures of pessimism, and highlight the fact that maybe things aren’t as bad as they are as we really think they are. We reference the work of a Swedish medical practitioner, epidemiologist, statistician who has written a wonderful book called Factfulness, which explores how bad things really are.

It actually offers a 13 questionnaire. 13 questions to assess how on the ball you might be as an individual or we might be as a country and assessing how good or bad things really are in the world.

It’s probably worthwhile just referencing that questionnaire and just highlighting a few of those questions to give you a taste of what we discussed in that podcast. How many children will there be in the year 2100, according to the United Nations? Four billion, three billion, or two billion.

The UN predicts that by 2100, the world population will have increased by another four billion people. What is the main reason there will be more children aged below 15? There will be more adults aged 15 to 74. There will be more very old people aged 75 years and older. How did the world how did the number of deaths per year from natural disasters change over the last hundred years, the choices more than doubled, remain the same? Decreased to less than half. There are roughly seven billion people in the world today. Where do they live? And it gives three choices.

One billion live in America, one billion in Europe, one billion in Africa, four billion in Australia and Asia. One billion in the Americas. One billion in Europe. Two billion in Africa. Three billion in Asia and Australia. Two billion in America, one billion in Europe, and one billion in Africa, etc., etc.

You got to pick where most of the majority of people live. How many of the world’s one-year-old children today have been vaccinated against some diseases at 20 percent, 50 percent, or 80 percent? Question 10 worldwide 30-year-old men have spent 10 years in school. On average, how many years have women of the same age spent in school? Nine, nine years, six years, or three years.

Question 11 In 1996, Tiger’s giant pandas, black rhinos were all listed as endangered. How many of these three species and more critically endangered today? Two of them. One of them or none of them?

How many people in the world have access to electricity? 20 percent, 50 percent, or 80 percent? And finally, the global climate experts believe that over the next 100 years, the average temperatures will get warmer, remain the same, or get colder. Then we assess the results. That’s then described as, you know, the average score.


By the way, the average score is 40 percent. Correct. It’s pretty clear, perhaps, that the majority of people, certainly 60 percent of people think the world is much worse than the facts. Tell us it is anyway. This episode is an opportunity to reflect on that. We have a great conversation about the pleasures of pessimism. I hope you enjoy it.


This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.