June 19, 2024
Source: Basil Muhammed/Pexels

Source: Basil Muhammed/Pexels

The United Kingdom was recently ranked in a global survey as the second-worst place in the world for mental well-being. The only country that scored lower was Uzbekistan. Two countries currently at war—Yemen and Ukraine—scored higher happiness levels than us poor beleaguered Brits.

The Mental State of The World, from U.S. think tank Sapien Labs, questioned more than 400,000 people from 71 countries. The U.K. scored a measly 49 on a Mental Health Quotient (MHQ) scale that ranged from -100 (distressed) to 200 (thriving), with 35% of the British population reporting at the “distressed” end of the scale.

One could blame it on Brexit, or the bad weather (it hasn’t stopped raining for yonks and much of the U.K. was flooded throughout 2023 and early 2024) and, even, the post-COVID blues. While the results did show a slow recovery from the pandemic’s mental health toll, the study also found a strong correlation between wealth and unhappiness, with many of the more affluent nations scoring lower happiness levels than their poorer cousins.

“Greater wealth and economic development do not necessarily lead to greater mental well-being,” wrote the report’s authors.

In Great Britain’s defense, and for a variety of reasons, mental health is experiencing a global decline. Worldwide culprits include smartphones, ultra-processed food, and crumbling families. So, it’s hard for many citizens of the world to feel happy right now. Plus, London has just been named Europe’s best city, and Lancashire was recently voted as the country’s happiest place to live—but, still, Uzbekistan!

Maybe this is the kick that Britain needs in order to reclaim the “Great.” Our always-on working culture definitely needs a massive overhaul, and the cost-of-living crisis needs a much closer eye. So, maybe it’s time to drop GDP as a measurement of success and opt for a Happiness Index instead. This is a tool that measures the well-being of its citizens rather than the country’s economic output.

Whilst happiness is a difficult metric to measure, the index seems to be doing rather well as a marker in those countries that have adopted it (New Zealand and Bhutan, I’m looking at you). But there are also other ways to measure economic health.

There’s the Human Development Index (HDI) that comes courtesy of the United Nations and focuses on people and capabilities, whilst looking at health, education, and standard of living. And there’s the Better Life Index (BLI), which was created as part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Better Life Initiative, which looks at people’s well-being across 11 topics (including material living conditions and quality of life).

Meanwhile, back over in the Mental State of the World, although Tanzania and Sri Lanka ranked third and second respectively, they were both pipped to the post by the Dominican Republic (which is now officially the happiest place on Earth). And whilst the U.K. will never be able to compete with this Caribbean country’s beaches and tropical sunshine, it could most certainly learn a thing or two about its laid-back attitude to life.

Other ne’er-do-wells in the poll included South Africa at number 69 and Brazil at number 68. The United States was placed at a fair-to-middling 29th.

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