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'A wallet returned is more important for happiness than income'

(MENAFN- IANS) By Sanjeev Sharma

New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) To feel that your lost wallet would be returned if found by a police officer, by a neighbour, or a stranger, is estimated to be more important for happiness than income, unemployment and major health risks, as per the World Happiness Report.

India has been ranked 139 out of 149 countries in the list of UN World Happiness Report 2021 while Finland topped the list.

Trust and the ability to count on others are major supports to life evaluations, especially in the face of crises, the report said.

How big is the happiness benefit of expected benevolence? Someone who thinks it very likely their wallet will be returned if found by the police has a life evaluation higher by 0.49 points in the 2019 World Risk Poll data after controlling for basic demographics.

For community benevolence, it has computed the average expected return of wallets found by strangers and neighbours.

"If they think it is very likely to be returned if found by either a neighbour or a stranger, their life evaluation is higher by another 0.58 points, for a total of more than a full point on the 0 to 10 scale", the report said.

"This is more than twice the estimated negative effect of being unemployed and more than having an income several times higher. Another way of calibrating the well-being effects of expected benevolence is to compare them with the effects of negative events. The combined positive well-being effect of expected wallet return is again over a full point, twice or more as large as the negative effects of expected personal harm from violent crime, mental illness and any or all of five other risks measured on the same scale", it said.

Covid-19, as the biggest health crisis in more than a century, with unmatched global reach and duration, provides a correspondingly important test of the power of trust and prosocial behaviour to provide resilience and save lives and livelihoods.

The report said that a country where wallet return is seen as very likely, when compared to a country where such return is seen as very unlikely, is estimated to have had almost 50 fewer deaths per 100,000 population, about as large an effect as provided by institutional trust on its own.

The model including all three trust-related variables -- institutional trust, community wallet return, and income inequality, suggests that the trust differences between Finland and Mexico could explain a difference of 41 deaths per 100,000 in 2020, almost half of the total difference between the two countries. Covid-19 deaths in 2020 were 10.1 per 100,000 in Finland compared to 97.6 in Mexico.

The new evidence on wallet return comes from the World Risk Poll sponsored by Lloyd's Register Foundation and administered during the 2019 round of the Gallup World Poll.

Lloyd's Register Foundation agreed to include, among their more usual risk measures relating to the prevalence and perceived likelihood of bad events, a measure of positive risk.

The measure chosen is usually called the 'wallet question' because its original form asked respondents to assess the likelihood of their hypothetically lost wallet containing $200 being returned if found, alternatively, by a neighbour, a police officer, or a stranger.

With the likelihood of wallet return being assessed on the same basis as a range of negative risks faced by survey respondents all over the world, it is now possible for us to test the well-being importance of expected benevolence relative to that posed by mental illness, violent crime, and other risks of negative outcomes.

The report found that there was a roughly 10 per cent increase in the number of people who said they were worried or sad the previous day.

Mental health has been one of the casualties both of the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns. As the pandemic struck, there was a large and immediate decline in mental health in many countries worldwide. Estimates vary depending on the measure used and the country in question, but the findings are remarkably similar. In the UK, in May 2020, a general measure of mental health was 7.7% lower than predicted in the absence of the pandemic, and the number of mental health problems reported was 47% higher.

The early decline in mental health was higher in groups that already had more mental health problems -- women, young people, and poorer people. It thus increased the existing inequalities in mental well-being.

Global GDP is estimated to have shrunk by roughly 5 per cent in 2020, representing the largest economic crisis in a generation. In many countries, job vacancies remained approximately 20 per cent below normal levels by the end of 2020. Young people, low-income, and low-skill workers have also been more likely to lose working hours or lose their jobs entirely.

Not being able to work has had a negative impact on well-being. Unemployment during the pandemic is associated with a 12 per cent decline in life satisfaction and a 9 per cent increase in negative affect. For labour market inactivity, these figures are 6.3 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively. While young people report lower levels of well-being than other age groups, the effect of not being able to work is less severe than older cohorts, suggesting that they may be more optimistic about future labour market opportunities post-Covid, the report said.

(Sanjeev Sharma can be reached at )




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