The happier, the healthier – How happy are Kenyans?

For decades, researchers and health experts have pursued the connection between happiness and health.  Emerging research has begun to validate what many wise communities have intuitively known – that having a sense of happiness, peace, fulfillment, and purpose leads to a healthier, more balanced, and ultimately a longer life.


The Business Week magazine ranked the tiny Asian country Bhutan as one of the happiest nations in the world, the happiest country in Asia and the 8th happiest nation in the world, despite relatively low-life expectancy, a literacy rate of only 47% and a low Gross Domestic Product per capita.


Kenya didn’t even make the top 20.


Bhutan’s recipe for happiness

Bhutan’s fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, first coined the term Gross National Happiness (GNH) in 1972.  In an attempt to define and measure the quality of life of Bhutan’s citizens in a more holistic manner other than solely on economic performance; GNH promotes sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.  As the Dragon King would say, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.”


Unlike certain concepts of happiness in western literature, happiness according to the Bhutanese is itself multidimensional – the pursuit of happiness is collective, not defined by only one’s economic performance.  Well their Asian counterparts, China, sure has a lot to learn from them.


Despite becoming wealthier, the Chinese are less happy

According to a recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, China’s incredible economic growth in the last 20 years has been met with declining happiness.


In 1990, 68 per cent of those in the wealthiest income bracket inChinaand 65 per cent of those in the poorest reported high levels of satisfaction.  The latter figure has now fallen more than 23 percentage points.


The study also applauded the Chinese government for taking steps in the last few years to “repair the social safety net” and recognizing that job and income security, together with a social safety net, are of critical importance to being happy and generally healthier.


How happy are Kenyans?

With an economy that is growing as rapid as some of the world’s most promising emerging economies, Kenya is set to reap in the economic rewards like success stories such as China.  But, if your citizens’ “happiness” decreases, is it really a success story?


According to World Bank, Kenya mirrors Africa’s population growth.   The population has doubled over the last 25 years, is projected to grow by approximately 1 million per year over the next 40 years and will reach about 85 million by 2050 – that’s a lot more people to take care of and keep happy.


If Kenya had a GNH index, how happy would our nation be?  How strong is Kenya’s social safety net?  Would the social safety net be able to take care of all of us, including the projected boom in Kenya’s population?  With a higher GDP than the tiny Asian nation of Bhutan, do you think Kenya would rate higher on happiness?


Source: AFP, World Bank, Business Week



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