Happiness Survey Labels Kenya a Nation of Gloom

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Kenya has been ranked among the 25 most unhappy nations in the world in a report that links gloom to corruption, poor health, unemployment and poverty.

The World Happiness Report gave Kenya a score of four on a scale ranging from zero — the most unhappy — to 10, the extremely satisfied.

The report was co-edited by Jeffrey Sachs, an economist who two weeks ago withdrew from the race to become the next World Bank president and whose candidature Kenya had endorsed.

“It reflects a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness and absence of misery as criteria for government policy,” Prof Sachs said. The other editors were Richard Layard and John Helliwell.

The most unhappy countries were mainly in Africa and included Togo, Benin, the Central African Republic and Sierra Leone with an average life evaluation of 3.4.

Majority of the people polled in Africa recorded below five on the scale. Kenya had an evaluation about 4.2.

The happiest nations were mainly in northern Europe — Denmark, Norway, Finland and Netherlands, with an average score of 7.6.

The report released on Thursday intends to goad governments into making policies that are ranked as important by their citizens.

It also runs against the common thread that happiness is an individual’s choice, saying it should be pursued as a matter of national policy.

“In addition to specific measures of economic, social and environmental performance, governments should begin the systematic measurement of happiness itself, in both its affective and evaluative dimensions.”

The report published by the Earth Institute found that although the level of happiness is directly related to income security with richer countries better off, it is unequally distributed within countries.

The research was commissioned for the 2nd United Nations Conference on Happiness that closes in New York on Friday.

The authors said that on average the world has become a little happier in the last 30 years.

According to their findings, rising living standards do not translate to being happier in some countries such as the United States because of the wide range of influences including government policies and personal issues.

Although happier countries tend to be richer, social factors like the strength of social support, political freedom, wealth and an absence of corruption were found to be more important than income in explaining the differences between the top and bottom countries.

Individually, good mental and physical health, job security and stable families were identified as some of the most crucial things.

In richer as well as poor countries women were found to be happier than men.

Although the level of education has no clear direct impact on happiness, it is a key factor towards being happy through its impact on income.

High unemployment also has spill-over effects not only on the families of the unemployed but also on those with jobs, who feel less secure in their jobs.

Thus private sector employees are more affected than their public sector counterparts whose jobs are more secure.

The researchers said that work is key as it provides not only a livelihood but a source of meaning, a feeling of being needed and able to contribute.

The report says when people are unemployed they experience a sharp fall in well-being, which remains low until they find employment.

They noted that the persistent creation of “new material wants” through continuous advertising has created a huge problem, creating an insatiable longing for things that were previously not considered important.

Climate change

Prof Sachs said the spill-over of some of the actions of the rich countries have a major impact on the happiness of the poor, giving the example of climate change which has affected food security in the poorest regions.

“It is telling that in much of the rich world, populations are separated from the adverse spill over from their own behaviour,” Prof Sachs said.

Source: Business Daily Africa

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