Going to a happy place

Pakistan’s happiness insights

The World Happiness Report 2024 has been released to rank a total of 143 countries across the globe. The list of top 10 countries has remained unchanged since before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finland remains at the head of the pack, with Denmark in close succession. According to the report, all five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) secured spots in the top 10.

The Gallup World Poll (GWP) surveyed the national average response to life evaluations. Happiness revolves around an individual’s evaluation of his or her own life. The respondents were asked, “Please imagine a ladder, with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you, and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?” This measure is commonly known as the Cantril life ladder, or simply the life ladder.

Pakistan secured a ranking of 108 on the scale, with a score of 4.657, as per the report. In the South Asia region, Pakistan has been performing exceptionally well. Currently, India ranks at 126, Sri Lanka at 128, Bangladesh at 129, and Afghanistan at 143. Nepal has secured an impressive 93rd position and is leading in terms of happiness among the South Asian economies. Pakistan stands out in terms of happiness in South Asia, following Nepal.

The report’s findings have two significant implications for Pakistan, among others. First, according to the report’s findings, globally, younger individuals tend to be happier than their older counterparts. Despite having a significant portion (64 per cent) of its population under 30, Pakistan has struggled to achieve a higher ranking in terms of youth happiness. Pakistan’s global ranking for youth happiness came in at 107.

Second, in comparing the happiness scale points of the 2021-23 survey round with those of the 2006-10 round, a noticeable decrease of 0.479 scale points in happiness has been observed. This dynamic pattern highlights the changing trends in happiness over time. It implies that the declining happiness scores among young people and the overall decrease in happiness over time underscore the need for measures that foster a more optimistic outlook.

Happiness is crucial as it is closely tied to mental and physical well-being. It can improve our overall quality of life, boost productivity and creativity, promote positive social interaction, lower mortality risk, and elevate lifespan. According to academic research, happy individuals tend to be more resilient, optimistic, and better equipped to cope with life’s challenges.

Pakistan requires a range of short-term and long-term policy measures to enhance the happiness of its citizens. It focuses on implementing short-term measures like fostering community engagement, improving access to mental health services and basic infrastructure, and addressing corruption. Long-term policy measures include investing in education and health, fostering economic growth, bridging social inequality, and promoting good governance.

Several factors contribute to the difference in happiness across different countries. Notably, 78 percent of the variation in happiness across the country can be attributed to various social, economic, political, and psychological factors. The economic factor is GDP per capita, while social factors include the presence of a social support network and the level of generosity within a society. The other socio-economic indicators, such as life expectancy and socio-political indicators, such as freedom of choice and freedom from corruption, are relevant.

Psychological factors encompass both ‘positive affect’ and ‘negative affect.’ Positive affect includes a scale of emotions such as laughter, enjoyment, and interest, while negative affect consists of a scale of emotions such as worry, sadness, and anger.

In order to enhance the happiness of individuals, Pakistan must focus on improving the position of these factors. Pakistan’s rankings on various factors that are major predictors of happiness paint a mixed picture. It stands at 107 on GDP per capita, 133 on social support, 116 on healthy life expectancy, 103 on freedom of choice, 83 on generosity, 43 on perceptions of corruption, 134 on positive affect, and 34 on negative affect. It is worth mentioning that the higher ranking of perceptions of corruption and negative affect is closely tied to the worst performance in these indicators.

Pakistan requires a range of short-term and long-term policy measures to enhance the happiness of its citizens. It focuses on implementing short-term measures like fostering community engagement, improving access to mental health services and basic infrastructure, and addressing corruption. Long-term policy measures include investing in education and health, fostering economic growth, bridging social inequality, and promoting good governance.

Waqas Shair
Waqas Shair
Waqas Shair holds the position of Lecturer at Minhaj University Lahore, Pakistan. He is pursuing a PhD at Punjab University. He can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] and tweets @waqasshair689

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