India ranked 126 out of 143 countries, behind Libya, Iraq, Palestine, and Niger. Finland is now the happiest country for the seventh successive year.

India ranked 126th out of 143 nations in the World Happiness Report (WHR) 2024 released on March 20 which noted that older age is associated with higher life satisfaction in the world’s most populous country.
Finland emerged as the happiest country in the world, with an average score of 7.7, topping the report, the seventh successive year that the country has occupied the top spot on the list. Other top 10 countries are Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Australia. While Afghanistan and Lebanon held the bottom two spots, with scores of 1.7 and 2.7 respectively. India is ranked behind countries such as Libya, Iraq, Palestine, and Niger, according to the findings announced on March 20 to mark the UN’s International Day of Happiness.
The WHR is a partnership of Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the WHR’s editorial board. It was launched in 2012 to support the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. People in 143 countries and territories are asked to evaluate their life on a scale from zero to 10, with 10 representing their best possible life. Results from the past three years are averaged to create a ranking.

Correlation with prosperity
In broad terms, the rankings are loosely correlated with countries’ prosperity, but other factors such as life expectancy, social bonds, personal freedom, and corruption appear to influence individuals’ assessments too. The young in India are the “happiest” while those in the “lower middle” rung are the least happy.
The report said that older age is associated with higher life satisfaction in India, “refuting some claims that the positive association between age and life satisfaction only exists in high-income nations”. 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,” it said.
In India, older adults with secondary or higher education and those of dominant social castes report higher life satisfaction than counterparts without formal education and those from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
“India’s older population is the second largest worldwide, with 140 million Indians aged 60 and over, second only to its 250 million Chinese counterparts. Additionally, the average growth rate for Indians aged 60 and above is three times higher than the overall population growth rate of the country,” the report said.
Satisfaction with living arrangements, perceived discrimination, and self-rated health emerge as the top three predictors of life satisfaction for India in this study, the report said. “We found that older men, those in the higher age groups, those currently married, and those who were educated, report higher life satisfaction compared to their respective peers. Lower satisfaction with living arrangements, perceived discrimination, and poor self-rated health were important factors associated with low life satisfaction among older Indians,” it said.
The findings of this study indicate that strengthening family networks to ensure a comfortable living arrangement for older adults, men, widowed, and those without formal education in particular, and bolstering social networks to reduce discrimination may enhance well-being in older age, it noted.

Global findings
The US (ranked 23rd) has fallen out of the top 20 for the first time since the first World Happiness Report was published in 2012, driven by a large drop in the well-being of Americans under 30. The findings are at odds with 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.
“Youth, especially in North America, are experiencing a mid-life crisis today,” said Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, a University of Oxford economics professor and one of the report’s editors. Millennials and younger age groups in North America were significantly more likely than older age groups to report loneliness.
But De Neve said a range of factors was likely to be lowering young peoples’ happiness, including increased polarisation over social issues, negative aspects of social media, and economic inequality that made it harder for young people to afford their own homes than in the past.

Former communist countries gain ground
While the phenomenon is starkest in the United States, the age gap in wellbeing is also wide in Canada and Japan, and to a decreasing extent in France, Germany, and Britain, which all lost ground in this year’s rankings. By contrast, many of the countries with the biggest improvements in well-being are former communist countries in central and eastern Europe. There, unlike in richer countries, young people report a significantly better quality of life than older people, often on a par or better than in western Europe. “Slovenia, Czechia, and Lithuania are moving into the top 20 and that is wholly driven by their youth,” De Neve said.
The report added that Serbia (ranked 37th) and Bulgaria (ranked 81st) have had the biggest increases in average life evaluation scores since they were first measured by the Gallup World Poll in 2013.

The next two countries showing the largest increases in life evaluations are Latvia (ranked 46th) and Congo (Brazzaville) (ranked 89th), with rank increases of 44 and 40 places, respectively, between 2013 and 2024.

For the first time, the report gives separate rankings by age group, in many cases varying widely from the overall rankings. Lithuania tops the list for children and young people under 30, while Denmark is the world’s happiest nation for those 60 and older.
(with inputs from PTI and Reuters)

Courtesy: Frontline

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