A variety of events, from the Arab Spring to austerity protests and unrest in China, have all contributed to making the world a less liveable place over the past five years, according to the latest findings of The Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Liveability Ranking.
The ranking, which provides scores for lifestyle challenges in 140 cities worldwide, shows that since 2008 liveability across the world has fallen by 0.6%, led by a 1.3% fall in the score for stability and safety.
Melbourne tops the ranking for the third year running, followed by Vienna and Vancouver. However, this apparent stability hides longer-term trends that become apparent when taking a five-year view.
Only 28 cities of the 140 surveyed have registered changes in the last 12 months, but 86 cities have experienced a change in liveability over the past five years. Of these, just 30 have seen an improvement in scores, while 56 have seen liveability levels declining.
"Liveability often seems static on a year-to-year basis," says Jon Copestake, editor of the survey. "But looking at movement over a longer period we can see some significant trends emerging. While the threat of terror had a defining influence on liveability in the last decade, we can clearly see that civil unrest has already had a significant impact on liveability in this decade."
The past five years have seen civil unrest becoming a globally destabilising factor, with a number of different reasons for discontent.
The most significant of these has been the Arab Spring, which has affected a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, notably the ongoing protests in Egypt and the civil wars in Syria and Libya. This means that Damascus, Tripoli and Cairo have seen the sharpest declines over the past five years, with the Syrian capital in particular seeing a 20% decline in liveability and moving to the very bottom of the ranking.
But austerity and feelings of disenfranchisement have led to rioting and protests in western Europe as well, notably in Greece, but also in the UK and most recently in Spain.
In China, which has seen improving liveability levels over the past five years due to investment in infrastructure and higher living standards, there has been heightened unrest triggered by a range of social problems, most notably anti-Japanese rioting during August and September last year.
Yet it has not all been doom and gloom; there have been some positive changes in liveability over the past five years.
Bogota in Colombia has seen the sharpest rise in liveability as the threat from terrorism, violence and kidnappings related to guerrilla activity has declined.
Equally, while current elections are disputed, a more stable situation has prompted a rise in liveability for Harare, although the Zimbabwean capital remains in the bottom five cities of the ranking.