|Year : 2019 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 39-42
Indians richer but less happy today, here the plausible five reasons why?
Assistant Professor, Army College of Nursing, Deep Nagar, Jalandhar Cantt, Punjab, India
|Date of Web Publication||14-Oct-2019|
Army College of Nursing, Deep Nagar, Jalandhar Cantt, Jalandhar, Punjab
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
India has been ranked 133rd among 156 countries in the United Nations' World Happiness Report 2018, 15 places down from its position in 2015. This is despite the report's finding that India's per capita gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the standard of living, and healthy life expectancy, a marker of well-being, have trended upward over the last 3 years. At the same time, socioeconomic inequity is preventing per capita GDP growth from translating into happier people. This is not to say that higher income does not matter. However, once these needs are fulfilled, they stop experiencing greater happiness with rising income if there is also growing inequality, as it leads to unfavorable comparisons. In the last 3 years, Indians have reported experiencing fewer positive emotions and more negative emotions, two variables that influence the World Happiness Ranking. Did you experience happiness and enjoyment during a greater part of yesterday? Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Participants' responses to these questions made up the positive emotion variable, called “positive affect.” To what extent did you experience worry, sadness, and anger yesterday? Participants' responses to this question made up the negative emotion variable, called the “negative affect.” Here, in this article, there are five plausible reasons how happiness eludes India. However, we have a long way to go. These happiness rankings remind the loopholes in our system. India needs to work faster to reduce inequality and to ensure freedom and well-being. Happiness ministry is the need of the hour in India.
Keywords: Gross domestic product, happiness, negative effect, positive effect, richer
|How to cite this article:|
Sagar K. Indians richer but less happy today, here the plausible five reasons why?. Indian J Psy Nsg 2019;16:39-42
| Introduction|| |
India has been ranked 133rd among 156 countries in the United Nations' (UN) World Happiness Report 2018, 15 places down from its position in 2015. This is despite the report's finding that India's per capita gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the standard of living, and healthy life expectancy, a marker of well-being, have trended upward over the last 3 years. Then, what makes Indians less happy today than they were 3 years ago? And why are Indians the least happy people in the Indian subcontinent? Myanmar (130), Sri Lanka (116), Bangladesh (115), Nepal (101), Bhutan (97), and Pakistan (75) all rank higher than India, while the neighboring China stands at 86. Indians are suffering the impact of weaker social support networks, a less generous society, and fewer reasons to experience positive emotions such as laughter and, at the same time, are feeling more negative emotions such as worry and anger. At the same time, socioeconomic inequity is preventing per capita GDP growth from translating into happier people.
| Why Higher Per Capita Gross Domestic Product Has not Made Indians Happier?|| |
In July 2011, a UN general assembly resolution recognized that “the gross domestic product indicator by nature was not designed to and does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people.” It invited member nations to develop measures to better reflect the pursuit of happiness and well-being to guide public policy. Since 2012, with the exception of 2014, the UN has been publishing a report on the state of happiness in countries around the world, remarking on the causes of happiness and misery, and their policy implications, primarily based on the Gallup World Poll that specializes in tracking citizens' opinions. [Table 1] shows that, India recorded a higher growth rate in real GDP at constant prices between 2014–2015 and 2016–2017 than in the previous 3 years from 2011–2012 to 2013–2014, according to data from the World Bank.
|Table 1: India's gross domestic product/per capita gross domestic product rising|
Click here to view
Per capita GDP is frequently used as an indicator of standard of living. However, that only works in a society where the distribution of income and wealth is reasonably equitable.
“In India, income, wealth or other forms of human capital inequalities are starkly visible,” Hema Swaminathan, Chairperson of the Centre for Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru. “Here, an accident of birth decides your life's prospects, and with the steady erosion of the structures that could help individuals achieve mobility, such as the primary education system and public health system, little scope exists for social or economic mobility,” she said.
More recently, scientists from the London School of Economics and Political Science examined data from the Gallup World Poll and the World Top Incomes Database and found that the more the income is held by the richest 1% of a nation, the more likely the individuals are to report lower levels of well-being, life satisfaction, and more negative daily emotional experiences.
This is not to say that higher income does not matter. Very poor people become happier when their income increases as their basic needs are met. However, once these needs are fulfilled, they stop experiencing greater happiness with rising income if there is also growing inequality, as it leads to unfavourable comparisons, said Shreya Jha, a doctoral candidate in Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath, UK., who has studied well-being in the Indian context.
| Indians Worry More and Feel Sadder and Angrier|| |
In the last 3 years, Indians have reported experiencing fewer positive emotions and more negative emotions, two variables that influence the World Happiness Ranking. Did you experience happiness and enjoyment during a greater part of yesterday? Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Participants' responses to these questions made up the positive emotion variable, called “positive affect.” To what extent did you experience worry, sadness, and anger yesterday? Participants' responses to this question made up the negative emotion variable, called the “negative affect.” In India, the effect of positive emotions has been reducing since 2015, whereas the effect of negative emotions has been increasing as compared with the previous 3 years (2012–2014), according to the World Happiness Report. This means that Indians perceive fewer reasons to smile and more reasons to worry and feel angry. Research suggests that negative circumstances could have a stronger effect on our emotions. “Essentially, negative circumstances take precedence in our attention, especially when there are no other factors that can alleviate their negative effects.”
Here are five plausible reasons how happiness eludes India:
- People living in more equal societies are happier: Glaring disparity in the purchasing power of the population has long haunted India, where still nearly one-fourth of the population lives below the poverty line. According to a 2016 World Bank report titled “Talking on equality,” India has the highest number of people – about 224 million – in the world living below the international poverty line of $1.90. While economies are not only the indicator of happiness, it is almost a necessary factor and it demands greater equity in India. Not to mention that along with poverty comes malnutrition and abysmal public health for a huge section of the population
- Shortfall in public infrastructure for education: Opportunities for development and acquiring knowledge and skills for gainful employment are at the heart of happiness. According to a 2018 report authored by a development economist, Abusaleh Shariff, of the Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy, and Amit Sharma, a research analyst with the National Council of Applied Economic Research, access to education beyond higher secondary schooling is restricted to a mere 10% among the university-age population in India. The disparity exists across genders, socioeconomic religious groups, and geographical regions. Furthermore, public Indian institutions providing quality higher education are even fewer and necessitate fierce competition among scores of contenders, including undue amounts of stress on young students. This, combined with the social perception of success and pressure to be a certain way, keeps a majority of young individuals from reaching a place of satisfaction and stability
- Safety and security of woman bodies: Who literally forming almost 50% of society is still an unyielding major issue, in direct contradiction of social trust a social key factor to societal happiness. Just weeks ago, Gurmehar Kaur and Zaira Wasim were targeted with rape and murder threats by their chauvinist fringe elements displeased with their work or independent stand on issues. Mob molestation of several women on New Year's Eve in Bengaluru is <3 months old. According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, crime against women grew by 34%. All of these generate a public perception that women's safety has not improved since the outrage following the Nirbhaya case
- Perception of personal liberties: Substituting peaceful discourse of ideas with violence is bound to have poor ramifications of societal peace and inclusivity in a diverse society with several fault lines. Events causing distress and unrest among swathes of people have been cropping up frequently, whether it be a series of violent bullying incidents in the wake of the Supreme Court's interim order about the national anthem in cinemas, the politicization of universities as in the Ramjas Row, or violence or threat of violence against creative expression (like cinemas). Personal liberties of various kind have literally received blows without resulting in punity
- Mental health: Mental health care continues to be grossly underfunded. While India has made significant strides in the health sector (such as controlling infant mortality, greater longevity, smallpox, and polio elimination) since independence, mental health is not a part of it. The government spends 0.06% of its total health spending on mental care. According to the WHO Mental Health Atlas More Details, by comparison, the USA spends 6.2% on mental health and England on 10.82%. Even Bangladesh spends more at 0.44%. According to the conservative estimates of the Indian Health Ministry, about 6%–7% of Indians (more than 70 millions) suffer from mental health problems. Yet, the psychiatrist-to-population ratio currently remains a grossly inadequate one of 1 psychiatrist per 2–3 lakh people. The current shortage of mental health-care professionals combined with the invariable stigma attached to mental health issues is a quietly brewing crisis.
| What Can Be Learned from Happy Countries?|| |
All the top countries in the happiness index give utmost importance to personal freedom; health, particularly on mental health; and higher GDP levels. Though money cannot buy happiness, economic strength ensures better conditions which lead to increase in happiness levels, and absence of corruption increases trust on government. Thereby people feel safe to live there, which in turn increases happiness levels.
| Conclusion|| |
India couldn't find a secure good place in the happiness index because of longer work hours which cause job stress, and mental health is not given its due importance. Government expenditure and the number of psychiatrist and psychiatric professional workers are very low in India, education is not available to all even now, and medical facilities are not affordable to many in India. This affects the life expectancy factor in the happiness index. There is an increase in unemployment in India which is evident from the large number of postgraduate applicants for clerical posts. This leads to stress and reduction in happiness levels. Apart from these, the fact that we ranked way below our neighboring countries in the happiness index is disturbing. Although India is listed in the least happy countries in the world, India is moving in a right direction by empowering women, reducing corruption, and increasing transparency. However, we have a long way to go. These happiness rankings remind the loopholes in our system. India needs to work faster to reduce inequality and to ensure freedom and well-being. Happiness ministry is the need of the hour in India.
The author is indebted to the Administration of Army College of Nursing, Jalandhar Cantt, for its support.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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