Happiness / Somos+
Somos+, Roberto Camba, 21 March 2017 — The United Nations has just
launched the 2017 World Happiness Report, coinciding with the World
Happiness Day on March 20th. From its first publication in 2012, the
world has come to understand more and more that happiness has to be used
as the correct measure with regards to social progress and the objective
of public policies.
The report is based on statistics collected from the happiness index or
subjective well-being, Gross Domestic Product, social support, life
expectancy from birth, freedom to make decisions, generosity, perception
of corruption (within the government or in businesses), positive or
negative feelings, confidence in the national government and in society,
the level of democracy and the level of income per household.
Much of the data is taken from the average of the results of Gallup’s
global survey. For example, the “life’s staircase” question: “imagine a
staircase, with steps numbered from 0 (at the base) to 10 (at the top).
The top of the stairs represents the best life possible for you and the
base the worst life possible. Which step do you feel like you are
currently at right now?”
“Social support” means having someone that you can rely on during times
of difficulty. Generosity equates to having donated money to a
charitable organisation over the past month. Whereas, positive or
negative feeling relates to questions about whether for the most part of
the previous day the individual experienced happiness, laughter or
pleasure; or rather did they experience negative feelings such as worry,
sadness or anger. The report references its sources and explains the
other indexes which negatively influence the perception of happiness
such as: unemployment or social inequality.
The 2017 Happiness Report places Norway at the top of its list, followed
by: Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New
Zealand, Australia, and Sweden as the top ten.
The US was listed at number 14 and Spain at 34. The best placed Latin
American nations were Chile (20), Brazil (22), Argentina (24), Mexico
(25), Uruguay (28), Guatemala (29) and Panama (30). The list included
155 countries. Those that have improved the most with regards to their
position between 2005-2007 are Nicaragua, Lithuania and Sierra Leone,
whilst Venezuela is the country that has slipped down the rankings the most.
And Cuba? It does not appear on the list. The Network of Solutions for
Sustainable Development that prepared the report only possesses data on
Cuba from 2006. During that time, the average response to the “staircase
of life” was 5.4 (which placed it at 69th out of 156 nations), just
behind Kosovo. Possibly today many Cubans would answer “where is the
staircase to even begin to climb it?”
According to the 2006 data, Cuba appeared to be high in its ranking of
social support and life expectancy from birth, but it was the third
worst in freedom to make decisions. It was ranked as low for level of
democracy, despite the fact that its per capita GDP surpassed China,
Mexico, Brazil and South Africa to name some of the prosperous economies
in the world*. In the net index of feelings (the average of positive
feelings subtracted by the average of negative feelings) Cuba occupied
the 112th place, making it the lowest ranked country in Latin America,
with only Haiti having worse figures.
This index is the most direct measurement of fulfillment or of personal
frustration that influences values and behaviour.
Of course beyond scientific rigour, no statistic or survey is 100%
reliable. Subjective happiness or individual perception of happiness is
very variable. Replying to these questions implies making a mental
comparison. We compare ourselves to our neighbour, to those abroad, to
our past or to our previous situation.
who receive manipulated information will not be able to effectively
compare themselves. Furthermore, people think as they live: having
access to running water could be the ultimate happiness for someone
living in Sub-Saharan Africa, but a European or North American considers
that they must have that and would take offense if they did not have it.
Cubans do not need a global report to know that there is a low happiness
index among the people. The problems seem insoluble, the shortages are
growing, personal ambitions have had to be postponed for decades,
emigration becomes the only hope. The government quashes individual
initiatives and working towards the happiness of its people — or
allowing others to do it — does not seem to be in its projections.
At Somos Más (We Are More) we believe that a responsible government must
have this as its main objective and we will continue to fight to achieve it.
Translator’s note: If the GDP used for this analysis was that provided
by the Cuban government, it would likely have been inaccurate.
Source: Happiness / Somos+ – Translating Cuba –