The World Happiness Report 2019, which ranks countries according to how happy their citizens are, came out recently. As usual, when such international rankings are published, the first reaction is to look at who tops the lists and where Pakistan stands. Topping the ranking were the usual suspects – Finland, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden – the ones that top almost all rankings related to quality of life. No surprises here. The surprise was Pakistan. Unlike other rankings, where we are usually in the bottom quartile or quintile, we were ranked 67th out of 156 countries in the survey. We were the highest in South Asia, above Nepal (100), Bangladesh (125), Sri Lanka (130) and India (140). We also ranked higher than China (93), some European countries such as Croatia (75) and Greece (82), as well as the richer Muslim countries such as Turkey (79) and Malaysia (80).
Happiness theory came into the public discourse following the publication of a seminal book by Richard Layard of the London School of Economics – Happiness: Lessons From A New Science. The book reported a number of surveys in Britain and the U.S. that showed that people had not become happier in the post-war period despite massive economic growth. The book also reported that while incomes were important, people gave high value to things like family, friendship, social status and living in a safe society. Since the publication of the book, much work has been done to delve deeper into the issue. One of the key findings of this research is that the subjective levels of happiness-unhappiness are a legitimate measure of wellbeing. They are well correlated with objective measures of brain activity, and with events such as marriage and divorce, birth and death; and getting and losing a job.
Happiness theory came into the public discourse following the publication of a seminal book by Richard Layard of the London School of Economics – Happiness: Lessons From A New Science
So what makes a country happy? The report looks at six factors. Of these, two are measured quantitatively – GDP per capita adjusted for real purchasing-power and life expectancy at birth. The other four factors are measured by answers to the following question: If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on? Are you satisfied with your freedom to choose what you do with your life? Have you donated money to a charity in the past month? Is corruption widespread throughout the government? Is corruption widespread within businesses? These six factors explain levels of happiness in most countries. The largest single contributor to happiness comes from the existence of good social support systems which account for 34 percent, followed by GDP per capita (26 percent), life expectancy (21 percent), freedom (11 percent), generosity (five percent), and lack of corruption (three percent). In most South Asia these six factors account for 70-80 percent of the happiness score of countries.
In Pakistan, however, these six factors taken together do not explain even half of our happiness score. It is something apart for the usual things (income, health, social security) that makes Pakistanis happy. So what is it? We are free to speculate but my guess it is the music, the optimistic and cheerful nature of Pakistani people, the feeling that things are getting better, and the close relationship Pakistanis have with family, friends and community. These are things which make Pakistanis unique and something we need to recognise and cherish.
The report also compares countries’ happiness scores between 2005-8 and 2016-18. Over this period Pakistan has increased its happiness score significantly (by 0.703 on a scale from 0-10). This has placed it number 20 on the list of counties that have grown happier. Again the same question comes to mind – what has made Pakistanis happier over the last 10-12 years? Some answers come to mind such as the improved law and order situation; better roads, electricity supply and the cellular phone network; and the ability to change governments peacefully through the ballot box.
While the report does not answer the question about why Pakistanis are happy and have been getting happier, it does have two messages that are very important for families as well as policy makers. First, that the increasing amount of time spent on social media, especially by adolescents, reduces time spent on happiness enhancing activities such as being with friends and family. Pakistani families need to take note and act accordingly. Second, mental health and associated addictions for example to food, internet usage or drugs create crushing unhappiness. In Pakistan neither public health policies nor social norms recognize that metal health is as important as physical health. This is something that needs a lot more attention than it gets.
Another interesting finding from the report is that happiness in India between 2015 and 2018 fell significantly (by 1.137). This places it among the top of the league table of countries that have become unhappier alongside Venezuela, Yemen, Central African Republic and Greece.
The report suggests that unhappier people hold more populist and authoritarian attitudes. Probably the success of the BJP, and other populist and nationalist parties, has been their ability to target the unhappiness and anger of voters.
The writer is a former member of United Nations staff
І’m gone to convey my littⅼe bгother, that he ѕhould also pay a visit this blօg on reɡular basis
to taқe updated from most up-to-dаtе informɑtion.