The World Happiness Report 2022 was recently published. Read here to understand its significance in governance.
- The World Happiness Report 2022 was published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
- Finland is the happiest country and India is among the 10 nations with the largest drop.
The year 2022 marks the 10th anniversary of the World Happiness Report, which uses global survey data to report how people evaluate their own lives in more than 150 countries worldwide.
World Happiness Report
In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 65/309 Happiness: towards a Holistic Definition of Development inviting member countries to measure the happiness of their people and to use the data to help guide public policy.
In 2012, this was followed by the first UN High-Level Meeting called Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm, which was chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Prime Minister of Bhutan, a nation that adopted gross national happiness instead of the gross domestic product as their main development indicator.
The World Happiness Report is a publication of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and is being published since the year 2012.
The report is based on two key ideas:
- Happiness or life evaluation is measured through opinion surveys and
- Identifying key elements that determine well-being and life evaluation across countries.
The report ranks 150 countries based on several factors like:
- Real GDP per capita
- Social support
- Healthy life expectancy
- Freedom to make life choices
- Perception of corruption
Every year, each variable measures a populated-weighted average score on a scale of 0-10 that is tracked over a period of time and further compared with other countries.
Each country is also compared against a hypothetical nation called Dystopia.
- Dystopia represents the lowest national averages for each key variable and is, along with the residual error, used as a regression benchmark.
- The six metrics are used to explain the estimated extent to which each of these factors contributes to increased life satisfaction when compared to the hypothetical nation of Dystopia, but they themselves do not have an impact on the total score reported for each country.
From 2021 the World Happiness Report has advocated for the use of WELLBYs (Well-Being-Adjusted Life-Years).
- It argues that QALYs (Quality-adjusted life year) only count the individual patient’s health-related quality of life, and instead WELLBYs should be used.
The data used to rank countries in each report is drawn from the Gallup World Poll, as well as other sources such as the World Values Survey, in some of the reports.
The Gallup World Poll questionnaire measures 14 areas within its core questions:
- business & economics,
- citizen engagement,
- communications & technology,
- diversity (social issues),
- education & families,
- emotions (well-being),
- environment & energy,
- food & shelter
- government and politics,
- law & order (safety),
- religion & ethics,
- transportation, and
World Happiness Report 2022
The 2022 World Happiness Report included a section looking at possible genetic effects on individual happiness.
- Finland has been named the world’s happiest country for the fifth year running followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
- The biggest gains in happiness have taken place in Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania.
- Afghanistan was ranked as the unhappiest nation, followed by Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Botswana, respectively.
- The United States managed the 16th position, while Britain was ranked 17th and France 20th.
India saw a marginal improvement in its ranking, jumping three spots to 136, from 139 a year ago.
India’s neighbors performed better than the country-
The Happiness report also stated that India witnessed a fall in life evaluations by more than a full point on the 0 to 10 scale over the past 10 years.
Reasons for India’s poor performance
India may be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but it is among the least happy countries. The country’s unhappiness is a result of many factors like:
- rapid urbanization and congestion in cities,
- declining incomes and unemployment,
- unfavorable perceptions about corruption in the country,
- rising costs of healthcare,
- women’s safety,
- environmental pollution,
- poor mental wellbeing
Significance of World Happiness report
Happiness has now become a key metric to track the performance of countries and corporate offices as well.
The report thus aims to identify key determinants of well-being which is expected to help countries craft policies aimed at achieving happier societies.
The World Happiness Reports, over the years, confirmed that people in the modern world are more prone to have poorer mental health, a low score of subjective well-being, and poor perception of governance and law and order, despite high-income levels.
Happiness has now been accepted as a goal of public policy. This has interconnected happiness and governance intricately.
Experiences from several nations confirm that the countries with higher GDP and higher per capita income are not necessarily the happiest countries and there exists a link between the state of happiness and rule of law.
COVID-19 has also demonstrated the crucial importance of trust for human well-being. Deaths from COVID-19 during 2020 and 2021 have been markedly lower in those countries with higher trust in public institutions and where inequality is lower.
When organizations, academics, or governments try to define progress by creating a new set of indicators, they increasingly include measures of happiness. This reflects the strong public appetite for this conception of progress and the growing availability of data on happiness.
Thus, the science of happiness has much to offer governments in devising better policies. But it can never tell them how to handle inequality or questions of long-run sustainability.