WASHINGTON: Happiness, Mahatma Gandhi said, is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. But that token, India is in complete disharmony and far from its ‘acche din’ ideal. The country has dropped from 118th to 122nd among 155 countries in the 2017 World Happiness Index, a listing topped by Norway followed by Denmark and Iceland.
So what is the cause of India’s unhappiness? Everything from poor life expectancy and job dissatisfaction to lack of social support and trust in government and business.
India ranked near the bottom in the six factors, income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust, that go into ranking, even though one of the metrics, GDP per capita income, has been improving all the time, proving again that money does not beget happiness.
In fact, Pakistan and Bangladesh, not to speak of China, ranked far above India in the Happiness Index. People in the Central African Republic are unhappiest with their lives, according to the survey, followed by Burundi (154), Tanzania (153), Syria (152) and Rwanda (151). The Top Ten happy countries are 1. Norway 2. Denmark 3. Iceland 4. Switzerland 5. Finland 6. Netherlands 7. Canada 8. New Zealand 9. Australia 10. Sweden
Published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and released at the UN on Monday, the Happiness report also records American decline on the happiness scale, because of social issues rather than economic factors.
The United States, which ranked 3rd among the OECD countries when the index was first conceived, is now at 14th position, mainly on account of declining social support, lesser personal freedom and corruption, the same factors that put Nordic nations and countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in the Top Ten.
Happiness research and measurement has gone mainstream ever since India’s tiny neighbor Bhutan brought it to the forefront by arguing that it was more meaningful than mere economic metrics such as GDP and inflation. Experts now agree that other measures, such as social support, the spirit of generosity, and freedom of choice, all of which go into the Happiness index, matter as well.
How Norway has climbed to the top (toppling Denmark, a three-time topper) despite the fall in oil prices and depressing Nordic weather, offer some insight into how the index works and its emphases.
”Norway achieves and maintains its high happiness not because of its oil wealth, but in spite of it,” the report states, pointing out that, ”By choosing to produce its oil slowly, and investing the proceeds for the future rather than spending them in the present, Norway has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies.”
”To do this successfully requires high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance, all factors that help to keep Norway and other top countries where they are in the happiness rankings,” the report adds.