Muscat: Oman ranks among the top 25 list of the "happy countries" in the world. The Sultanate has been ranked 23rd among 156 nations and second in the Gulf region in the World Happiness Report 2013 released yesterday.
The report, published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), under the auspices of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, called on policymakers to make happiness a key measure and target of development.
In the six GCC countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — the sample was restricted to nationals and Arab expatriates.
The UAE ranked at 14, Qatar at 27, Kuwait 32, Saudi Arabia 33 and Bahrain at 79th position in the happiness index which revealed fascinating trends in the data, judging just how happy countries really are.
Oman scored an overall 6.853 points. On a scale of zero to 10, people in over 150 countries, surveyed by Gallup over the period 2010-12, revealed a population-weighted average score of 5.1 (out of 10). Six key variables explained three-quarters of the variation in annual national average scores over time and among countries. These six factors included: real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity.
The report identified countries such as Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden as enjoying the highest levels of happiness. Middle East & North Africa countries have registered a significant increase.
The report was edited by Professor John F. Helliwell of the University of British Columbia and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Well-Being Programme at LSE's Centre for Economic Performance; and Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Director of the SDSN, and Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General.
"There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterise their well-being," said Professor Jeffery Sachs.
"More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world. The World Happiness Report 2013 offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us a lot about ways to improve the world's well-being and sustainable development."
The second World Happiness Report further strengthened the case that well-being should be a critical component of how the world measured its economic and social development.
The report has examined trends over time and breaking down each country's score into its component parts, so that citizens and policy makers can understand their country's ranking. The report showed significant changes in happiness in countries over time, with some countries rising and others falling over the past five years.
There was some evidence of global convergence of happiness levels, with happiness gains being more common in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and losses more common among the industrial countries. For the countries with data available, happiness (as measured by people's own evaluations of their lives) significantly improved in 60 countries and worsened in 41.
For policy makers, the key issue is what affects happiness. Some studies show mental health to be the single most important determinant of whether a person is happy or not. Yet, even in rich countries, less than a third of mentally ill people are undergoing treatment.
Good, cost-effective treatment exists for depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis, and the happiness of the world would be greatly increased if such treatment was more widely available. The report also shows the major beneficial side-effects of happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more, and are also better citizens. Well-being should be developed both for its own sake and for its side-effects.
Governments are increasingly measuring well-being with the goal of making it an objective of policy. One chapter of the report, written by Lord Gus O'Donnell, former UK Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, shows just how this can be done. It shows how different are the policy conclusions when health, transport and education are viewed in this light. In this report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development explains the thinking behind their new international standard guidelines for measuring human well-being.