India still among the world's unhappiest countries, finds World Happiness Report

The report is released every year by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and bases global happiness on several parameters

Representative image
Representative image

NH Digital

India ranks 126 among 143 countries surveyed for the UN-sponsored World Happiness Report, released today on the occasion of the International Day of Happiness, observed annually on 20 March. This makes us one of the world's unhappiest countries, for the third year running.

The report is released every year by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and measures global happiness according to several parameters, both national and international.

India's rank of 126 this year (down one spot from 125 in 2023) is only marginally better than neighbours Sri Lanka at 128 and Bangladesh at 129, and well behind politically troubled Pakistan at 108 or northern neighbour Nepal at 93. Even war-torn Palestine and Ukraine rank at 103 and 105 respectively.

Finland remains the world's happiest country for the seventh straight year, with other Nordic countries keeping their places among the 10 most cheerful, with Denmark, Iceland and Sweden behind Finland.

Afghanistan, plagued by a series of humanitarian disasters since the hardline Taliban regained control of the country in 2020, stays at the bottom of the 143 countries surveyed.

For the first time since the report was published more than a decade ago, the United States and Germany are not among the 20 happiest nations, coming in at 23 and 24 respectively. Costa Rica and Kuwait enter the top 20 at 12 and 13, with the United Kingdom rounding off the top spots at 20th place.

The report notes that the happiest nations no longer include any of the world's largest countries. "In the top 10 countries, only the Netherlands and Australia have populations over 15 million. In the whole of the top 20, only Canada and the UK have populations over 30 million," it says.

The sharpest decline in happiness since 2006-10 was noted in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Jordan, while the Eastern European countries of Serbia, Bulgaria and Latvia reported the biggest increases.

"The happiness ranking is based on individuals' self-assessed evaluations of life satisfaction, as well as GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity and corruption," as per an AFP report.

Quoting Jennifer De Paola, a happiness researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland, the AFP report said Finns' close connection to nature and a healthy work-life balance were key contributors to their life satisfaction.

De Paola also told the news agency that Finns may have a "more attainable understanding of what a successful life is", compared to countries where success is often equated with financial gain. "Finnish society is permeated by a sense of trust, freedom, and high level of autonomy," De Paola said.

This year's report also finds that younger generations are happier than older people in most of the world's regions, but India is also among the nations where older people are significantly happier than the youth.

Happiness inequality has increased in every region except Europe, which the report's authors describe as a "worrying trend". The rise is especially distinct among the old and in Sub-Saharan Africa, reflecting inequalities in "income, education, health care, social acceptance, trust, and the presence of supportive social environments at the family, community and national levels," the authors said. 

"The findings are at odds with much previous research into wellbeing, which found happiness highest in childhood and early teens, before falling to its lowest in middle age, then rising around retirement," says a Reuters report.

In India, the World Happiness Report finds older age to be associated with higher life satisfaction, "refuting some claims that the positive association between age and life satisfaction only exists in high-income nations".

As a key insight, the report also mentions that on average, older men in India are more satisfied with life than older women, but when taking all other measures into account, older women report higher life satisfaction than their male counterparts.

Yet another insight is that older adults with secondary or higher education and those from higher social castes report higher life satisfaction than counterparts without formal education and those from Scheduled Castes and Tribes.

India’s older population is the second largest in the world, with 140 million Indians aged 60 and over, second only to China with 250 million. Additionally, the report states that the "average growth rate for Indians aged 60 and above is three times higher than the overall population growth rate of the country".

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