Is our unhappiness affecting our health ?

Its great to be back to regular blogging after a minor health scare. I developed photo sensitivity (sensitivity to light) and spent a very unhappy last couple of weeks, shuttling between doctors clinics, pouring eye drops into my eye and generally keeping away from electronic devices. More on that later, but generally I was feeling rather unhappy at my condition. But are we as a country an unhappy lot ?

Well to look for answers I looked up Bhutan, our neighbor in the North -East who looks as Gross Domestic Happiness as a measure of their country’s success. While doing this research I came across the Global Happiness Report 2016. This report has been written by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jerrey Sachs. They have been conducting these studies since 2012 and in 2016 they have an update to the 2015 report. It is generally believed and accepted that happiness among citizens is a measure of their well being. In other words happiness is linked to health and if a person is not happy then he cannot be healthy.

It says in the report and I quote “This year, for the first time, the World Happiness Report gives a special role to the measurement and consequences of inequality in the distribution of well-being among countries and regions. In previous reports the editors have argued that happiness provides a better indicator of human welfare than do income, poverty, education, health and good government measured separately. In a parallel way, they now argue that the inequality of well-being provides a broader measure of inequality. They find that people are happier living in societies where there is less inequality of happiness. They also find that happiness inequality has increased significantly.” Source:

Indian texts have never placed too much importance on the permanence of happiness and the Bhagwat Gita equates happiness and misery to the changing seasons. It goes on to say that happiness is a outcome of a peaceful mind. Which gives us some indications on the relationship between mental health and happiness. So where does India stand in this report and are we a happy nation ?

Well the results may surprise you that the average citizen in Pakistan and Somalia is happier than us. India currently ranks at 118 in the World Happiness Index. Denmark tops it while Burundi at 157 is rock bottom. Bhutan is at number 80.

I think there are many challenges to India’s happiness, and the detailed methodology has been explained in this report here . These are the key parameters that they have considered while making their assessments including, GDP per capita, Social Support, Life Expectancy, freedom to make choices, corruption and generosity.

Given India’s population and the disparity in income it is not surprising to see us placed so way back. As a matter of fact, India dropped many percentage points this year as compared to last year. India dropped by almost -.075 points one of the largest in the world dragging Asia down by almost -0.6 points. Unhappiness is really affecting the index and definitely affects the health. This might not bear well for India, where we are struggling to provide healthcare to a billion plus people.

So despite the progress made on various fronts, we remain unhappy. Disparity in happiness levels is vast in the country. Also the loss of the social support structure is adding to the drop. So I am not alone in having an unhappy time

Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

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