Pakistan has jumped up a spot from last year to become the 66th happiest country in the world, according to the latest edition of the United Nations World Happiness Index for the year 2020.
The Islamic Republic is also the happiest country in South Asia followed by Maldives at 87th, Nepal 92nd and Bangladesh on the 107th spot.
However, arch-rival India slipped to 144th position among the bottom 10 on the global ranking this year as compared to the 140th spot it secured last year.
The global report, unveiled on the International Day of Happiness, took into account various factors from freedom, opportunities, generosity and trust to social, urban and natural environments to determine happiness scores, life evaluation and overall well-being of 153 states over the period of two years.
The report covers data till 2019 and is therefore not impacted by restrictions placed by countries to control the spread of novel coronavirus that has affected over 185 countries so far.
The European countries once again dominated the top spots with Finland becoming the world’s happiest country for the third year in a row followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands.
According to the report, ‘higher institutional and social trust’ were the key factors in explaining why life-evaluations were particularly high in Nordic countries resulting in more happiness and decreasing inequality in the region.
“Income, employment, family status and safety were more favourable, on average, in the Nordics,” read the report.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan, the war-torn country, stood last just below South Sudan, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, ranking as the least happy countries in the world. Poverty, violence and poor law and order extensively impacted the well-being of citizens as well as their trust in the social construct and governance on the whole.
Identifying factors that impact happiness, the report said “well-being inequality” significantly reduced average life evaluations. It suggested that people were happier to live in societies with less disparity. The equality was measured through factors like income, unemployment, discrimination and opportunities.
Cities happiness index
In a first, the report also compared happiness and well-being in different cities — being the economic powerhouses and generating more than 80% of the world’s GDP. The analysis proved to be “essentially identical” with countries.
Karachi has been declared the happiest city of Pakistan and South Asia, ranking 117, followed by Lahore on the 122nd spot.
Helsinki in Finland has been ranked on top, followed by Aarhus — Denmark, Wellington — New Zealand, Zurich — Switzerland, Copenhagen — Denmark and Bergen — Norway.
On the contrast, Kabul is the least happy city followed by Sanaa in Yemen and Palestine’s Gaza.
Environment and happiness?
Endorsing the growing public concern about the environment, the report assessed how different aspects of climate affected life evaluations in various countries.
It also touched upon the relation between the two, arguing that green, natural environments have a positive impact on individuals by encouraging certain behaviours. The study indicated an increase of happiness levels by individuals who lived near green spaces or were surrounded by natural trees, more than those who lived far from any natural greenery. The same analysis was also implied for those who live overlooking water surfaces.
“We find that being in green or blue spaces or a variety of (intuitively pleasant) weather conditions is in each case associated with an increase of one to three percentage points on the happiness scale,” the report stated, concluding that healthy surroundings do elevate levels of happiness.
Sustainable Development Goals
The report further underlined actions, that are needed to achieve long-term sustainability and area witnessed more among the happier countries.
It said the general satisfaction and trust increased social and political support for actions that could pave the way for securing a better future for upcoming generations, hence, indicating that actions required to meet goals of sustainable development were more likely to be met in happier countries with greater well-being.