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2023 World Happiness Report- Case of Nordic Countries & Ukraine

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The 2023 World Happiness Report has been released. Its findings give interesting insight into the world’s mind-set in a crisis-filled period and also how we perceive happiness.

This topic of “2023 World Happiness Report- Case of Nordic Countries & Ukraine” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Background:

  • The World Happiness Report ranks 136 nations based on how happy their populations are.
  • It is published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
  • It ranks countries based on 6 key factors, as measure of happiness:
    • Social support
    • Income
    • Health
    • Freedom
    • Generosity

Highlights of Report:

  • According to the 2023 report, Finland is the happiest country. The country tops the list for the 6th time in a row.
  • Following Finland, Denmark holds the 2nd spot and Iceland holds the 3rd spot.
  • Afghanistan and Lebanon occupy the last two spots.
  • Another 2 countries of the region- Sweden (at 6th spot) and Norway (at 7th spot) have also made it into the top 10.
  • India has been ranked at 126th position- an improvement from last year. However, it has been ranked below its neighbours, like Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
  • Counter-intuitively, India ranks below war-torn Ukraine (ranked at 92nd spot).
  • Notably, the 2023 report takes note of happiness gap i.e. the gap between the more and less happy portions of a country’s population.
    • This gap was especially low in Nordic countries, meaning virtually non-existent inequality with regards to happiness.
    • On the flip side, Afghanistan also showed very small happiness gap- but here, it is because almost no one is happy.

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Why are happiest countries consuming antidepressants?

  • One of the notable trend is that the happiest nations, according to the World Happiness Report, are also among the biggest consumers of anti-depressants. Anti-depressants are medicines used to depression, anxiety, addiction, etc.
  • According to OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) data:
    • Europe saw a 2.5-fold increase in the use of these prescription drugs between 2000 and 2020.
    • The highest usage was recorded in Iceland, followed by Sweden and Norway.
    • Finland and Denmark come at the 8th and 9th position in this list.
  • This paradox among the Scandinavian countries has led to criticism of how happiness is being measured in the current times.
  • Mental health has often been highlighted as a key issue in the larger Nordic area. For instance, Finland’s suicide rate among men, though lower than global average, is higher than the other Nordic countries and West European countries.

Why is Ukraine happier than India?

  • In 2022, Ukraine experienced large-scale damage and suffering.
  • However, the situation led to a stronger sense of common purpose and trust in the government. This also bred a higher level of benevolence among the people.
  • Pro-social activities like volunteering and charity has risen above pre-pandemic levels in Ukraine.

What is the way ahead?

  • There are several take-aways for a happier population:
    • Factors like strong welfare system, low unemployment rates and low crime rates boost contentment, if not happiness among a country’s citizens.When people feel secure about necessities like health, education and employment, they have more freedom to invest in family, friends and other aspects necessary for a more content life.Trust is a vital component to a population’s happiness. This refers to trust in the government and also in the wider society. To boost this, there is a need to curb hate speech and promote wider media coverage of good news, alongside the bad news.
    • A population’s relation with their country’s natural environment plays a role too. For instance, the concept of ‘friluftsliv’ (meaning: an outdoors lifestyle) helps too. The Nordic countries have been able to achieve this despite the lack of sufficient sunlit days.
  • While economic well-being is important, material well-being doesn’t preclude clinical depression and other conditions affecting mental health. For instance, some of the richest countries like Singapore and Saudi Arabia are ranked at 25th and 26th spots respectively.
  • There is a need to account for factors like poor mental health and loneliness in developed countries.
  • What the World Happiness Report ranks is how well the countries have created conditions for its citizens’ happiness.
  • However, happiness may be too individual and ineffable to be contained by measurements and rankings.

Conclusion:

Happiness is an individual phenomenon. It may be beyond the complete grasp of measures and indices. However, these tools need to be made more comprehensive to determine how content the people are.

Practice Question for Mains:

The World Happiness Report ranked Ukraine above India. Also, its top ranked countries are among the largest consumers of anti-depressants. Explain. (250 words)

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