Pursuit of happiness – The Nation

By The Citizen

Nigeria's ranking in the World Happiness Report gives cause for concern

It is a sad coincidence that Nigeria's latest ranking on the Global Happiness list was publicised at a time another report highlighted increasing cases of stroke in the country.

This year's World Happiness Report, released ahead of UN World Happiness Day on March 20, ranks Nigeria 103rd in the world and 6th in Africa. The report, an initiative of the UN, surveys the state of global happiness with a view to influencing government policy. Significantly, it reflects the widespread thinking that the pursuit of the happiness of the greatest number should be an important foundation for government policy. The first world happiness assessment was published in 2012.

It is a cause for concern that the World Happiness Report 2016, which ranked 157 countries by their happiness levels, suggested rising unhappiness in Nigeria as the country dropped from its 78th position in the world and 2nd in Africa in the 2015 happiness ranking. Denmark was listed as the world's happiest place, while Algeria, 38th at the global level, remained the happiest place in Africa.  At the bottom of the list were:  Madagascar, Tanzania, Liberia, Guinea, Rwanda, Benin, Afghanistan, Togo, Syria and Burundi.

Interestingly, the criteria for the assessment include: Healthy years of life expectancy, GDP per capita, social support, perceived absence of corruption in government and business, freedom to make life decisions and generosity.

It is noteworthy that although this report lacks scientific objectivity, top experts in various fields, including economics, psychology, survey analysis, national statistics, health and public policy, have described how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations.

Talking of objectivity, it would appear that Nigerians generally agree that there is no objective reason Nigeria should be ranked high on the happiness index. Of course, it is easy to point at serious stress, harsh economy, unstable power supply, perennial fuel crisis, massive unemployment and immense poverty, among the factors that hamper happiness across the country. The truth is that too many Nigerians are experiencing hell on earth at this time. The situation calls for a decisive intervention by the authorities.

It is disturbing that the rising cases of stroke in the country have been attributed to the prevailing hellish conditions. According to a report quoting medical experts, the reasons more Nigerians are struck by stroke these days include: 'Most Nigerians are not sleeping well by not having up to six hours of sleep daily as disturbed sleep is linked to higher risk of stroke; more Nigerians are shift- workers and shift work is associated with a higher risk for vascular events, such as heart attack and ischemic stroke; more people have taken to heavy drinking due to the harsh economic realities and heavy drinkers have a higher risk of having a stroke earlier in life than others.'

Other reasons are: 'increasing cases of air pollution from electric generating sets as new research shows that climate change and overall air quality - including higher pollution levels - are linked to a higher number of strokes; oral bacteria are linked to higher risk of stroke; and more Nigerian women are getting married at an older age and studies have shown that older mothers may face increased risk of stroke and heart attack.'

Importantly, researchers from the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Kwara State, led by Emmanuel Olatunde Sanya, advocate an intensification of public enlightenment. Following a study, the research team said: 'There is need to educate the community on the risk associated with modifiable risk factors for stroke, most especially systemic hypertension.' This is a call to duty for the authorities. The causative factors should be addressed more holistically, meaning that there should be an emphasis on correcting the enabling socio-economic conditions.

Happiness is intangible but there are tangible factors that promote it, which cannot be divorced from socio-economic conditions. In the final analysis, a country's happiness level is a function of the level of the governmental pursuit of the happiness of the greatest number. Nigeria deserves more happiness.