International Day of Happiness: Can One Measure Happiness?

Delicious Finnish pancakes, the northern lights, and the incredible architecture aren’t the only things that make Finland famous. There’s one more thing unique about Finland! According to the World Happiness Report, 2022, Finland has stood out as the happiest country in the world for the fifth consecutive time. As we celebrate the International Day of Happiness, it’s important to note that India ranks in the 139th position out of 149 countries surveyed. India falls behind neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, which stood at the 101st position and Pakistan at 105. 

Can one measure happiness?

Since 1937, the Gross National Product (GNP) has been used to measure the well-being of countries. Although it’s considered a reasonably good way to assess the progress and development of a country, there needs to be an acceptable way to evaluate how content or happy a country is as a cohesive society. To combat this issue, International Happiness Day has been celebrated on the 20th of March each year since 2012. It recognises the importance of making happiness a goal towards enriching public policies.

Here’s the catch: Can one measure or quantify a feeling like happiness? It may be challenging, but the 2013 World Happiness Report authors found a way to simplify the process. The key to measuring happiness is differentiating between emotion and evaluating human well-being. The prime difference is “I feel happy” versus “I am happy with my life”. 

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The Cantril ladder survey is devised by the polling company Gallup to measure happiness. The focus remained on the latter and was substantiated by other factors such as life expectancy, freedom to make choices, and per capita gross domestic product. Inc. Here’s how the Cantril ladder works. Picture a ladder with the steps marked from zero to 10, with 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom represents the opposite. 

India’s dismal ranking 

One may wonder why India’s ranking paints such a horrifying picture. Although considered one of the most progressive developing economies in the world with a technological boom to back it up, India is far from achieving a happy status on the International Day of Happiness.

But, what makes India so unhappy? 

Unemployment rates: India’s unemployment rate rose to 7.45% in February from 7.14% in January, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). While money may not necessarily buy happiness, it significantly contributes to a happier, healthier, and more content life. Numbeo’s average calculations account for a family of four and show they would require about 90,000 rupees per month to live a comfortable life.

While there aren’t too many surveys and reports covering the livelihood and income patterns of a typical Indian household, a 2004 report published by the University of Maryland shows that a family made only about 23,000 a month. The report also shed light on how the median household income in urban areas was twice as much as that of rural areas and that 25.7% of India live under the poverty line. 

Mental health woes: India has been a country to forge forth with strength, almost always dismissing grief, pain, the effects of trauma. Scarring mental health problems are left unchecked, leaving many depressed and helpless. The National Mental Health Survey conducted in 2016 revealed that suicide takes the lives of 2,00,000 Indians. The number is even more alarming if one were to add the number of attempted suicides. The survey further showed that close to 14% of India’s total population required active mental health interventions.

Lack of a work-life balance: To add to India’s woes, an ILO report showed that Indians are the most overworked globally. They’re also the lowest paid in Asia. An average Indian employee puts in a shift of 48 hours per week, if not more, with virtually no time left for leisurely activities. For those in rural areas, the number is even higher. Rural men work for 55 hours a week while women work 44. 

The way forward

It comes as no surprise that India is an unhappy country. It doesn’t make for a content or happy lifestyle when one is mentally stressed, overworked, unemployed, and/or underpaid. Suppose India is to move up the rung and rank higher on every International Day of Happiness. In that case, Indian citizens and the government must pave a path for a sustainable economy that supports economic growth and a demand for more enterprise and employment. 


  • Unemployment rate in India, CMIE
  • Five reasons for an unhappy India, April 03, 2021, Observer Research Foundation 
  • Cost of living in India, Numbeo 
  • Human development in India, India Human Development Survey 
  • National Mental Health Survey of India, 2015-16, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences 
  • Global Wage Report 2020-21, International Labour Organization

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