India figured among 10 countries that saw that largest declines in happiness levels between 2005-07 and 2013-15, according to a report released last month.

The World Happiness Report ranked 156 countries based on the analysis of six factors by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN).

Other countries with highest declines in happiness include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Yemen. Italy and Spain also figured in this list.

Nicaragua had the largest increase in happiness levels during this period, followed by Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Moldova and Latvia. Israel and Palestinian territories also had an increase in their happiness levels.

The report, however, acknowledges that the case of India’s decline in happiness is unexplained by the model.

“The largest regional drop (-0.6 points) was in South Asia, in which India has by far the largest population share, and is unexplained by the model, which shows an expected gain based on improvements in five of the six variables, offset by a drop in social support,” the report said.

The report ranks countries on the basis of a scale of 0 to 10—with the worst possible life as a 0 and the best possible life as a 10— on six factors: Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations).

The rating for the subjective factors was based on questions in the Gallup World Poll (GWP) asked of more than 1,000 people in each country.

India had a score of 4.404, much below the global average of 5.382, and was ranked 118th—one below last year’s ranking. Denmark, with a score of 7.526, was rated as the happiest country, while Burundi at 2.905 was rated the least happy. Half the countries had a score more than 5.314.

Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Pakistan happier than India

Among neighbours, India did better only than Myanmar (119th with 4.395); Pakistan was ranked 92nd with a score of 5.132 while Nepal stood 107th with 4.793, Bangladesh at 110th with 4.643, and Sri Lanka at 117th with 4.415.

“Increasingly, happiness is considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy,” the report published last month said.

India lags Saudi Arabia (34th), Uzbekistan (49th), Kazakhstan (54th), Somalia (76th), Iran (105th) and Palestinian Territories (108th).

Even among the BRICS nations, India stood last—behind Brazil (17th) with 6.952, Russia (56th) with 5.856, China (83rd) with 6.952, and South Africa (116th) with 4.459.

India and South Africa are the only BRICS countries that saw a decline in the happiness levels from 2005-07 to 2013-15.

Iraq, Yemen, Egypt had better social support than India

In GDP per capita, India was ranked 111th, much behind Brazil (69th), Russia (47th), China (79th) and South Africa (80th).

In terms of healthy life expectancy--defined as the average equivalent number of years of full health that a newborn could expect to live--India (59.07 years) did better only than South Africa (50.14 years) among the BRICS nations.

China (68.59 years), Brazil (64.59 years) and Russia (64.08 years) figured way ahead.

In terms of social support, India did better than only 10 countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Syria. Iraq, Yemen and Egypt fared better than India.

India was ranked 75th in terms of freedom to make life choices, and 64th in generosity.

In terms of trust, which was measured based on the perceived absence of corruption, India stood 90th, behind countries including Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Canada 6th, Russia 56th: How the big countries fared

Among the G8 nations, Canada ranked the highest (6th) while Russia ranked the lowest (56th).

Israel (11th) was ranked higher than the United States. The United Arab Emirates (29th) fared better than four of the G8 countries. Saudi Arabia, at 34th, fared better than Italy, Japan and Russia.

(Madhavapeddi is a desk editor at IndiaSpend.)

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