Mental health is key determinant of happiness, says global report

World Happiness Report 2013Mental illness has more effect on misery levels across the globe than physical illness, income or unemployment. That’s according to the World Happiness Report 2013 from the UN’s General Assembly, which concludes that there is a relationship between the scale of mental illness and the levels of national happiness.

About 10% of the world’s population suffers from depression or anxiety, and these disorders account for a fifth of all disability – putting pressure on productivity and the economy. However, the report adds that governments are not prioritising mental health, or putting their money where their misery is, as only a third of people who need treatment are receiving it. And it calls on schools and workplaces to be more mental-health conscious.

It says: “Good, cost-effective treatments exist for depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis, and the happiness of the world would be greatly increased if they were more widely available.”

Interestingly, the report details factors from childhood that impact on life satisfaction as an adult. Number one is the child’s emotional development, followed by behaviour and intellectual development. The most important family influence is the mother’s emotional health.

The happiest country in the report is Denmark, followed by Norway, Switzerland, Holland and Sweden. The US comes in at 17th, and the UK is 22nd in the list. Factors the UN takes into consideration when assessing happiness are: “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 concludes that subjective wellbeing has a huge influence on communities and the economy. “People who are emotionally happier, who have more satisfying lives, and who live in happier communities, are more likely both now and later to be healthy, productive, and socially connected. These benefits in turn flow more broadly to their families, workplaces, and communities, to the advantage of all.”

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