Kenya has improved its ranking as a happy nation, according to a new report that links the level ofdevelopment to the well-being of the people.
The country was ranked 123 out of 156 in the second World Happiness Report, compared to last year when it was ranked 134, making it one of the 25 most unhappy nations.
The report, which was released on Monday, underscores that well-being is a critical component of economic and socialdevelopment. It argues that happiness goes beyond an individual’s choice and should be pursued as a matter of national policy.
“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterise their well-being,” said Prof Jeffery Sachs, one of the editors of the report and a special adviser to the UN Secretary- General.
The report offers rich analysis of happiness that can be used by nations to improve the world’s well-being and sustainable development, he said.
The GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption and generosity are some of the factors that were considered.
The average world rate score is 5.1 with Kenya recording 4.4 on a scale of zero to 10 – with 10 being the happiest. Kenya came in 22nd in Africa, an improvement by two positions.
Local analysts say happiness leads to higher productivity and motivates people to work harder, boosting output at individual, firm and national levels.
“If one is happy they will work hard, invest more and want to spread the joy. When people make a profit they are highly motivated to work even harder,” said James Mbugua, a counselling Psychologist at Africa Nazarene University.
He said the peaceful election and projections of faster economic growth could lead to a higher level of optimism leading to more people being happy in the next ranking.
None of the African countries made it to the top 50 in terms of happiness with Angola leading the continent at number 61. That was a major improvement for a country that was ranked behind Kenya last year, raising questions over the ranking criteria.
Economic power house
Angola’s rise as an economic power house in the region, driven by oil, has seen its capital city Luanda ranked one of the most expensive cities in the world, according to human resources consulting firm Mercer.
Rwanda, Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Benin and Togo ranked as the five unhappiest countries. Denmark was ranked the happiest nation followed by Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden.
The report shows that the Arab Spring and some of the ongoing tensions in the Arab world had seen conditions worsen with North Africa and Middle East countries dropping in rank.
According to the findings rising living standards do not necessarily translate to happier citizens with factors such as social support, political freedom, wealth and absence or corruption being viewed as more important than income even in richer countries.
The report also shows happy people have a higher life expectancy, are more productive, earn more and are also better citizens.
The research shows that mental health is the single most important determinant of individual happiness with about 10 per cent of the world’s population suffering from clinical depression or crippling anxiety disorders. It notes access to more cost-effective treatment of mental illness could greatly increase the happiness of the world.
The concept of “happiness economics” was first introduced by former king Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan and has over the years gained traction in many countries including Germany and South Korea.
The global survey was conducted between 2010 and 2012 and is the second report by the Earth Institute. It’s authored by leading experts in economics, psychology,survey analysis and national statistics with Prof. Sachs and John Helliwell editing it.
The report was released as heads of state get ready for the United Nations General Assembly in two weeks.