Indian population is on the verge of a depression epidemic, explains Gyan Pathak.
India is increasingly losing happiness by the year. World Happiness Report 2018 of the United Nations reveals that Indians are increasingly becoming unhappy. It scored only 4.190 on a scale of 0-10 in 2017, which is only a little more than the passing mark of 3.3 if life would have been an exam. It fell in global happiness ranking by 11 places in comparison to its fall in 2016 by four places. Only 23 countries out of 156 surveyed are unhappier than India, which ranked 133rd in the world. It means 84.61 per cent countries are happier than we are. We have lost our level of happiness during 2015-17 compared to 2008-10 by 0.698 points, making us the top 15th loser of the world ranking 128th out of 141. The fall was primarily due to declines in average life evaluations suffered due to a combination of economic, political, and social stresses. Increased rates of crime, conflict, suicide, and depression can be cited as its effect.
Almost two hundred people, both male and female, per lakh were suffering from opioid use disorders, and over 400/lakh from depression in 2016. With the further increase in unhappiness, the country seems to be on the verge of depression epidemic, which is reflected in a significant rise in adolescent depressive symptoms and suicide rates. The rising rate of depression, particularly among adolescents, is correlated with the use of new screen technologies (smartphones, video games etc) and social media. Causation may run in both directions, from depressive syndromes towards screen time (as a kind of self-medication) and from screen time towards depressive symptoms. For example, addictive behaviours to the new technologies, and other depression-inducing conditions such as increased loneliness and feelings of alienation resulting from online rather than interpersonal interactions are growing. Video games, for example, seem to have six attributes of addiction: salience, mood modification (self-medication), tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse. A recent report had revealed that excess facebook use was associated with lower self-reported mental health.
Lord Buddha maintained there were eightfold Dukkhas in the world, but then they were philosophical expositions. We have a different criterion of measuring happiness in the life of an individual in eightfold concrete terms, which were applied by this report. They are – per capita GDP, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perception of corruption, dystopia (a perception of everything unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degrading one) and residual, and confidence interval. Our root cause lies in the failure of scoring higher in these eightfold criteria.
India is faring very badly in life ladder index since 2006 when it scored 5.348, which fell to 4.424 in 2014, when India voted for a change and Narendra Modi became Prime Minister of India. However, the situation increasingly worsened. GDP per capita score has slightly improved from 8.13 to 8.76 between 2006 and 2017. Social support score has declined from 0.70 to 0.60 in the meantime. Healthy life expectancy at birth for the Indians has increased from 56.1 to 59.5 in the last 12 years. Score for freedom to make life choices has increased from 0.77 to 0.88.
As for the generosity of Indians, we had achieved a score of 0.07 in 2013 but it has declined to a negative level of (-0.05). It means we have become far less generous in the last five years. Our scores have fallen to a negative all through these years except in 2016 when it was 0.03, at less than half the generosity which we had in 2013.
We have very disheartening data on perception of corruption index. The score shows that the situation has been increasingly worsening for the last seven years. In 2011 our score was better at 0.90, which has now fallen to 0.78 in 2017. Positive effect score has also been declining from 2014 when it was 0.71, which is now 0.68. Negative effect score has fallen from 0.33 in 2013 to 0.31 in 2017.
Confidence in the national government has improved from a score of 0.53 in 2013 to 0.83 in 2017. However, the democratic quality has deteriorated, the score of which has always been in the negative for the last 12 years. Democratic quality score in 2016 was -0.27. The score of 2017 is not available. It was -0.39 in 2013. The delivery quality score has also been in the negative since 2016. It was -0.30 it 2013 and -0.14 in 2016.
GINI index of household income shows a decline from 0.62 in 2009 to 0.42 in 2014 to 0.38 in 2017. The score for dystopia, a sense of everything unpleasant, and residuals is 1.43 and India ranks 134th. It is a worst kind of condition prevailing in the country.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)