World Happiness Report: Where does India rank?

World Happiness Report 2024: Finland for the seventh time straight became the world’s happiest country, according to the annual UN World Happiness Report that was released on Wednesday.

Nordic nations continue to dominate the top rankings, with Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden following closely behind Finland.

Out of the 143 countries surveyed, Afghanistan remained at the bottom of the list, facing ongoing humanitarian crises since the Taliban regained power in 2020.

The United States and Germany, after more than a decade, have fallen below the top 20 happiest nations, securing the 23rd and 24th positions respectively. Conversely, Costa Rica and Kuwait have entered the top 20, claiming the 12th and 13th spots.

Notable changes in happiness levels have been observed since 2006-2010, with Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Jordan experiencing significant declines, while Eastern European countries like Serbia, Bulgaria, and Latvia have seen notable increases. The ranking of happiness is determined by individuals’ self-assessed evaluations of life satisfaction, along with factors such as GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and corruption.

The report underscores a change wherein the happiest countries no longer include any of the world’s most populous nations. Only the Netherlands and Australia, both with populations exceeding 15 million, are present in the top 10, while Canada and the UK, with populations over 30 million, are found in the top 20.

Jennifer De Paola, a happiness researcher at the University of Helsinki, cites Finns’ strong connection to nature and healthy work-life balance as key factors contributing to their life satisfaction. She notes that Finns have a different perspective on success, valuing aspects beyond financial gain, and benefit from a robust welfare society, trust in government institutions, low corruption levels, and universal healthcare and education.

The current report also points out a pattern where younger demographics tend to express greater levels of happiness in contrast to older age brackets, except in North America, Australia, and New Zealand where youth happiness has decreased since 2006-2010.

Conversely, central and eastern Europe have witnessed an uptick in happiness across all age groups during the same timeframe, while Western Europe maintains consistent happiness levels across generations.

The report highlights a troubling surge in global happiness inequality, especially among older populations and in Sub-Saharan Africa, indicative of gaps in income, education, healthcare, and social support networks.

Where does India rank on the list?

India ranked 126, the same as last year, in the happiness index.

Factors such as marital status, social engagement, and physical health also influence life satisfaction among older Indians.

Notably, satisfaction with living arrangements emerges as a critical factor, reflecting the strong desire among older Indians to age in place and maintain autonomy and social bonds.

This study challenges the notion that age-related satisfaction is exclusive to high-income nations and underscores the importance of considering diverse factors affecting life satisfaction among older adults in India.

India’s older population ranks second globally, with 140 million individuals aged 60 and above, trailing only China. The growth rate of this demographic surpasses three times the country’s overall population growth rate. While this demographic shift signifies social and economic advancement, comprehending the factors that impact the quality of life in old age remains essential.

The report said that older Indian men, particularly those in higher age brackets, presently married, and those with an education, tend to report greater life satisfaction compared to their counterparts.

Among older Indians, factors such as dissatisfaction with living arrangements, perceived discrimination, and poor self-rated health are linked to lower life satisfaction.

Life satisfaction among older adults in India shows an interesting trend, contradicting the notion that age-related satisfaction is only prominent in high-income nations. While older age is generally associated with higher life satisfaction in India, older women tend to report lower satisfaction than men.

Education level and social caste exert notable influence, as individuals with higher education and from elevated social castes tend to report higher life satisfaction. Furthermore, contentment with living arrangements, perceived discrimination, and self-assessed health status emerge as key indicators of life satisfaction among older Indians.

Older Indian women tend to report higher life satisfaction compared to men, despite facing more stressors and health challenges.

Social support may play a significant role, as women often have broader social networks.

Age, on the other hand, shows varied associations with life satisfaction. While common belief suggests a decline in satisfaction with advancing age, empirical studies suggest otherwise, with some suggesting increasing satisfaction with age due to factors like experience, adaptive strategies, and enhanced social and emotional regulation.

(With TOI inputs)

William Murphy

Related post