Indians may be more prosperous than Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, but are less happy

news
15 March 2018

With no sight of the long-promised "Acche din" (good days) Indians are getting less happy by the year rather than happier, while their poorer neighbours in the region, including terror-hit Pakistan, poverty-stricken Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and China are becoming more joyful, shows the latest United Nations ranking of the world's happiest countries.

India, which dropped four places in the 2017 orld Happiness Report, fell a further 11 places in the 2018 report. It now ranks a low 133 on the list of 156 countries monitored by the United Nations' Sustainable Development Solutions Network for its annual 'joy' report.

By comparison, terror-ravaged Pakistan, which was already 'happier' than India in the 2017 rankings, is shown as being even happier in the 2018 rankings. It's on number 75, up five spots from last year.

The annual World Happiness Report was released on Wednesday ahead of the International Day of Happiness on 20 March.

Among the eight SAARC nations, Pakistan was at 75, Bhutan at 97, Nepal at 101, Bangladesh at 115 and Sri Lanka 116. The Maldives did not figure in the World Happiness Report.

The report put Finland at the top among 156 countries ranked by happiness levels, based on factors such as life expectancy, social support and corruption.

Taking the harsh, dark winters in their stride, Finns say access to nature, safety, childcare, good schools and free healthcare are among the best things about in their country.

Unlike past years, the annual report published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network also evaluated 117 countries by the happiness and well-being of their immigrants.

Europe's Nordic nations, none particularly diverse, have dominated the index since it first was produced in 2012. In reaching No1, Finland nudged neighbouring Norway into second place.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, and Australia. The United States fell to 18th place from 14th last year.

Relatively homogenous Finland has about 300,000 foreigners and residents with foreign roots, out of its 5.5 million people. Its largest immigrant groups come from other European nations, but there also are communities from Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Somalia.

The overall rankings of country happiness are based on the pooled results from Gallup World Poll surveys from 2015-2017, and show both change and stability. There is a new top ranking country, Finland, but the top ten positions are held by the same countries as in the last two years, although with some swapping of places. Four different countries have held top spot in the four most recent reports- Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and now Finland.

All the top countries tend to have high values for all six of the key variables that have been found to support well-being - income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. Among the top countries, differences are small enough that that year-to-year changes in the rankings are to be expected.

The analysis of happiness changes from 2008-2010 to 2015-2015 shows Togo as the biggest gainer, moving up 17 places in the overall rankings from the last place position it held as recently as in the 2015 rankings. The biggest loser is Venezuela, down 2.2 points on the 0 to 10 scale.

Perhaps the most striking finding of the whole report is that a ranking of countries according to the happiness of their immigrant populations is almost exactly the same as for the rest of the population. The immigrant happiness rankings are based on the full span of Gallup data from 2005 to 2017, sufficient to have 117 countries with more than 100 immigrant respondents.

John Helliwell, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report and professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, noted all the top-10 nations scored highest in overall happiness and the happiness of immigrants. He said a society's happiness seems contagious.

Studying happiness may seem frivolous, but serious academics have long been calling for more testing about people's emotional well-being, especially in the United States. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report recommending that federal statistics and surveys, which normally deal with income, spending, health and housing, include a few extra questions on happiness because it would lead to better policy that affects people's lives.





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