In search of Nigerians` diminishing happiness

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By Muhyideen Jimoh

In 2003, the World Values Survey reported that Nigeria was home to world’s happiest people.

The study, which was carried out over a period of three years showed that Nigeria beat no fewer than 65 countries to claim the top spot.

More than two decades after, the 2024 World’s Happiness Report released on March 20 to mark the International Day of Happiness ranked Nigeria 102 happiest country of 143 countries surveyed globally.

The report released in partnership with Gallup, the Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre, the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the WHR’s Editorial Board scored Nigeria 4.881 points in its latest 2024 survey.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nigeria’s happiness scores has remained below 5 points since 2020, fluctuating between 4.552 to 5.268 points.

The report factored self-reported life satisfaction evaluations alongside a 6-point metrics like GDP per capita, social support networks, health expectancy, freedom, generosity, and levels of corruption to determine national happiness rankings.

Why has Nigeria’s performance continued to decline over the years? Experts offer insights.

Dr Christopher Piwuna, Consultant Psychiatrist, Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) believes the ability of government to improve the welfare of Nigerians will greatly boost their happiness level.

“In 2003 Nigeria was number one worldwide on happiness assessment, but now we are 102, this is not too good for the nation.

“We have really gone backward though life expectancy has improved within the country.

“The rate of poverty in the land has impacted negatively on the happiness ranking of the country,” he said.

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Similarly, Safiya Ojo, General Medical Practitioner, Wuse General Hospital, Abuja, said being happy could help ones general well-being and lifespan.

Aisha Bubah, Counseling Psychologist, Network for Psychosocial Support, Africa (NPS-Africa), said there was the need for Nigerians to take care of their mental health to avoid depression.

“If one is in a happy state, it means less troubles, less stress and better well-being. Conversely if one is unhappy there will be depression, suicide, anxiety, and stress disorder.

“Depression is a significant problem that has affected some youths which has made them to be drug addicts.

“We need to create time for relaxation and look beyond the economic situation of the country; we need to focus on the positives in every bad situation,” Bubah said.

Interestingly while Nigeria is on the slide on the World’s Happiness report, Finland was in March, 2024 crowned the world’s happiest country for a seventh consecutive year.

According to the Finnish Happiness Institute (FHI) study, when asking people living in Finland what makes them happy, Finns always mention proximity to nature and the opportunities it offers for recreation and relaxation.

“In Finland, you are never more than a 10-minute walk from a park or forest. Clean water, unpolluted air and unspoiled nature greatly contribute to wellbeing and happiness – and nurture creativity” it said in a report.

Johanna Jäkälä, Executive Director, Finland Promotion Services, Business Finland, says the anti-stress lifestyle, outstanding government and modern facilities help boost the happy lifestyle of the Finnish people.

“The anti-stress lifestyle also influences the Finnish work culture. Finland is a country of low hierarchies, and work-life balance is highly valued.

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“When people come here, they also get access to a kind of lifestyle which is pretty unique.

“We like to think that happiness is good for business and happy employees are productive employees,” he said.

“In Helsinki it is completely normal to leave the baby outside, obviously with a baby monitor and if possible by the window, so you can see the stroller while shopping or having coffee,” Jennifer De Paola, a social psychologist and expert on Finnish happiness said.

Elisabet Lahti, PhD, author, researcher and founder of Sisu Lab. stressed the importance of adequate security and working in an egalitarian society for  citizens to feel relaxed and happy.

“In a well-functioning, fair and equal society, people can worry less and concentrate on living their lives.

“Poor life decisions or bad luck don’t necessarily have to mean falling too far behind. To feel safe is one of our primal needs and if we’re not safe, we’re not able to relax into co-creation and innovation,” she said.

Experts say that the Nigerian government can do a lot more to make Nigerians feel happier and more productive.

They say this can be achieved through heavy investment in infrastructure/social amenities and the implementation of sound economic policies.

Mr Andrew Mamedu, Country Director, Action Aid Nigeria (AAN), a social justice NGO, said President Bola Tinubu’s 8-point agenda, if implemented properly could give hope to the poor and boost Nigerians’ productivity.

“The 8-Point Agenda encompass critical areas such as food security, ending poverty, economic growth, job creation, access to capital, improved security, a fair playing field, rule of law, and the fight against corruption.

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“They reflect the aspirations of the citizens for a more inclusive and prosperous society.” he said.

Experts opine that there is a nexus between the Tinubu’s ‘renewed hope’ 8-point agenda and the World Happiness index 6-point parameters which are all geared towards a better economy and society.

They point to the path to the renewal of Nigerians’ fast-eroding happiness. (NANFeatures) (www.nannews.ng)

** If used please credit the writer and News Agency of Nigeria.

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