According to UN World Happiness Report 2018, India lags behind its neighbours Pakistan and Bangladesh in World Happiness Index. Finland which sat on fifth spot previous year rose to the first spot and dethroned Norway to become the Happiest country in the world. The Nordic countries sit on four out of top five spots. India however continues to fall in the index year after year. In 2016 it sat at 118th position and then slipped to the 122nd last year.
This year we saw a massive fall of eleven ranks in our position as we finish at the 133rd spot on 2018 Index.
Is the clue for us being unhappy hidden in the criterion for this Index?
The rankings are calculated using parameters like GDP per capita, social support, freedom, generosity and corruption. So, we can say that the clue to our slippage in World Happiness Index lies in these parameters.
India’s GDP per capita is steadily on the rise and is much better than neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Nepal. Yet, Pakistan sits on the 75th position this year. It’s not just 2018 report, but Pakistan was way above us in terms of ranks in the 2017 report as well.
Which makes it clear that the problem lies elsewhere. If we compare reports of last two consecutive years, then we observe a gradual shrinkage in coloured segments which indicate social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption.
Broadly, there are two types of factors which influence the happiness of a country – positive and negative. So, it is evident that factors in our life which simulate happiness are growing at a slower rate.
Unhappiness stems from dissatisfaction and apathy for social well-being
This eleven-rank slip in happiness index tells a tale of increasing dissatisfaction among Indians, which is not just political or economic, but social and cultural as well.
Our falling levels of happiness suggest that we as a society lack something which other countries seem to have gotten right. Author Rana Safvi points out, “We as a society have some really high expectations from promises made to us. But much hasn’t changed around, as these promises are very difficult to deliver, which has led to rise in frustration among us. The economy has slowed down and unemployment rate is high. Earlier the negative feeling was latent, but now it is out and obvious. So basically, it is about unmet expectations, failed aspirations and frustration. We are turning into an aggressive, self-centred and shallow society, where people only listen to what they want to listen to”.
The problem is that there is no instant fix to our problems. But our frustration has boiled up to appoint where we refuse to wait anymore.
Another factor, as Safvi said is our increasing concentration of individual well-being. Despite showing outrage on social media over national issues, most of us choose personal wealth over communal well-being. Something Finnish people take very seriously.
Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark says, “GDP per capita in Finland is lower than its neighbouring Nordic countries and is much lower than that of the US. The Finns are good at converting wealth into well-being. In the Nordic countries in general, we pay some of the highest taxes in the world, but there is wide public support for that because people see them as investments in quality of life for all. Free healthcare and university education goes a long way when it comes to happiness.”
Maybe, it’s high time we start thinking about our social infrastructure. While we all concentrate on earning more, it is the quality of life that we lead, which makes us happy. A higher quality of life is not possible unless we have strong social and economic reforms. Once we start focussing on what actually makes us happy, than what makes us prosperous, then we will become a happier society. This brings us to a very important question. Are we even interested in becoming happier, both as individuals and as a society?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.