People in the richest countries feel the most gloomy about the future, according to a survey conducted for the Swiss-based World Economic Forum.
A higher percentage of respondents in western Europe and North America predicted that future generations would be both less safe and economically worse off than did their counterparts elsewhere in the world.
A relatively high proportion - 71 per cent - of Africans were optimistic about the future, and 77 per cent of Latin American residents were critical of the honesty of their politicians.
The results were released in advance of the WEF's annual meeting, a programme bringing together more than 2,500 participants from 88 countries including heads of state, government ministers, corporate leaders, and clergy.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will open the meeting on Wednesday in the mountain resort of Davos.
Six out of seven Swiss cabinet ministers are planning to attend the five-day event.
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