Will Happy People Commit Suicide?
Happiness means enjoying the piece of life without any regrets. If that is the meaning then why should a happy individual commit suicide?
This is a pertinent question to be asked in the current scenario where international organizations prepare ranking reports based on the happiness of a human being. Often the high rankings are taken as benchmarks and those countries which have achieved it are applauded. But the organizations which prepare the ranking reports miss those crucial parameters without which the document is complete.
In this article, I would like to take the 10 best ranking countries from the three indices: the Happiness index, the Human Development Index (HDI) and the Gross Domestic Product (Purchasing Power Parity) per capita (In USD), and compare with the suicides that happen in those countries. This will help us to understand some limitations of those indices.
Let us take the World Happiness Report 2018 where Norway is the second happiest country in the world, with a ranking of 7.594, trailing Finland. But the suicide rates in the country are alarming, 12.2 suicides per 100,000 people according to the world population review.
Every year 500 to 600 suicides occur in Norway according to the report published by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Suicides are synonymous with unhappiness and so the happiness report does not reflect the reality in the country. From Table 1, it is self-explanatory that the best ranking countries in the happiness index have unusually high suicide mortality rates.
*) Suicide rate (per 100,000) in 2016
Therefore, in my quest to find out the relationship between other indicators and suicide, I select the Human Development Index (HDI). The indicators used to measure HDI are education, life expectancy at birth and gross national income per capita.
From Table 2, it is clear that Norway tops the index with an HDI value of 0.953. Apart from this, you can also observe the other 9 countries in the world which are having top education and health standards and highest income per person. But if you observe the corresponding suicide rates, it is unusually high.
Human Development Index (HDI) Ranking – (Schooling in years)
The 8th ranked country is intentionally left out due to lack of data.
It is because HDI can reveal little about the quality of education or the power of the mind to cope up with the stressful situations. Even, it doesn’t disclose the breadth and depth of the school curriculum. Just a higher ratio of doctors or health clinics can never assure peace of mind for the individual.
Education itself can be a stressful situation for the children and can trigger suicides. In some countries, the curriculum is so tough that many students succumb to the pressure at an early stage and become susceptible to suicides.
Life expectancy at birth only predicts that the child has the necessary constitution for living until a certain age. It doesn’t take into consideration the different changes that happen to the mind and the body at a later stage.
So a high HDI doesn’t necessarily reveal the quality of human resources, whether they are vulnerable to suicides or not. It is futile to have a high-quality education, health, and income if those benefitted individuals’ suicide over a period of time leaving behind a trail of depression for the bereaved families.
I take the next index, the Gross Domestic Product per capita (GDP, PPP) (In USD) to find out whether higher incomes can decrease suicide (per 100,000 population). It is clear from Table 3 that higher per capita Income doesn’t necessarily reduce the suicide rates.
Though we could see a very low suicide rate for countries like Brunei Darussalam, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it cannot be generalized over the European or other Asian countries.
Higher per capita income may give a good platform for the individual to grow and prosper. But whether the individual will get benefitted and will lead a healthy life is beyond the scope of Gross Domestic Product Per Capita income. The higher income could be used for binge drinking or buying fitness equipment. But the country cannot pressurize the individual to use the income for healthy living.
GDP (PPP) per capita (In USD)
2nd and 10th ranks are left out due to lack of data
In conclusion, reports or indexes published by international organizations shows how far a country has progressed in comparison with others.
So it is not an end in itself, but it is a beginning for building a better country where the emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of an individual are also incorporated.
This article is written by our regular guest writer Rajesh Trichur Venkiteswaran.
Rajesh is a freelance journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
© Rajesh Trichur Venkiteswaran / #Norway Today