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India may be shining, but it's 'not happy'

Arvinder Kaur in New Delhi | February 24, 2004 10:11 IST

India may be shining due to the 'feel good factor', but when it comes to happiness, there seems to be no sparkle as India ranks very low on international happiness scale, say psychologists.

The incomes are rising and material goods are easily available. Still when it comes to happiness, Indians are not very well placed. A recent international survey puts India at number 21 on the happiness scale.

"The gross national product is in no way an indicator of gross national happiness. In fact, what we find is that people with no economic pressures suffer more from depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders," says Jitender Nagpal, consultant psychiatrist, Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences.

Amid wealth and luxury, desires also tend to be more and unfulfilled desires are a major source of unhappiness, Nagpal says.

"The desire for material goods has increased hand in hand with average income and is, in fact, a happiness suppressant,"
says Dr J P S Sawhney, a senior cardiologist with Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi.

Competition too has increased, says Dr Sawhney, noting that "the mind is never relaxed, always insecure and in a state of depression... so where is the question of happiness?"

An international values survey agrees with this view and notes that "average happiness has remained virtually the same in industrialised nations since World War II, although incomes have risen."

An analysis of levels of happiness conducted in 65 countries by the World Values Survey recently showed that Nigeria, in spite of its poor economic condition, had the highest percentage of happy people.

The US ranked 16th, Australia 20th, India 21st and Britain 24th.

"Money can certainly buy happiness but its impact seem to drop once you can afford basic necessities...money just doesn't buy as much happiness as it used to," says Dr Sawhney.

Another important factor contributing to it is a sense of insecurity which is present all the time. "We Indians keep thinking about future security all the time. This makes our present unhappy," he says.

A restless mind and body lead to high blood pressure and heart ailments. "We take to television as a means to relax but this in turn leads to a sedentary lifestyle, which can be a major killer." the cardiologist said.


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