WHO

The Pursuit of Happiness: paying greater attention to Mental Health

Sunday marks the United Nations’ 5th International Day of Happiness. Few people are against the pursuit of happiness, but many argue that governments – and international organisations for that matter – have no business in setting happiness as a public policy goal. And yet leaders around the world, from France to Japan, Italy to Qatar, are increasingly paying attention to it. Bhutan has long advocated for the use of a Gross National Happiness Index to provide a fuller assessment of national development progress than what is captured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while the US Surgeon General sees happiness as a part of the country’s public health agenda.   Economists and statisticians recognise that measuring happiness – or subjective wellbeing as it’s more accurately called – ...

Mental health: A fundamental component of human development

  Mental health issues are a serious concern, and an area that is enormously underrecognized. Globally at least 800,000 people commit suicide each year: one suicide every 40 seconds. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds, and for every suicide there are many more attempts each year. But suicide is only one extreme manifestation of mental health issues. Mental and substance use disorders go much wider: they have consistently been shown as the leading causes of years of life lived with disability worldwide. Many mental health issues are not even counted in these statistics, most often because they are not diagnosed. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as, “a state of well-being in which an individual can realize his or her own potential, cop...

Counting what counts in development

To most people, “development” is best measured by the quantity of change – like gains in average income, life expectancy, or years spent in school. The Human Development Index (HDI), a composite measure of national progress that my office at the United Nations Development Programme oversees, combines all three statistics to rank countries relative to one another. What many do not realize, however, is that such metrics, while useful, do not tell the entire story of development. In fact, to understand how developed a country is, we must also grasp how people’s lives are affected by progress. And to understand that, we must consider the quality of the change that is being reported. When statisticians compare countries, they require commensurate data. To compare school attendance, for example,...

Little Heart, Standing Tall

By UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME IN LATIN AMERICA, LIVELIHOOD & POVERTY REDUCTION In partnership with WHO and UNICEF, UNDP is supporting Mexico’s efforts to ensure full inclusion of children with disabilities. The bread that Maria sells to support her family is a hit with her neighbours. Every day at dawn, Melitón Rodríguez and María de los Santos go out to sell hot bread. The couple live in the town of Tecamalucan, in the southern state of Veracruz in Mexico. They have a 2-year-old son, Charli, for whom they work hard everyday to give him a lifetime of opportunities. Charli’s parents, Melitón and María, rise early each morning to sell hot bread in their neighbourhood. In April 2016, Melitón and María decided to take Charli to the Yoltzin children’s day care ce...

Leveling the playing field: Human development and sports

There is a positive relationship between human development and practicing physical sports. Exercise is associated with improvements in health, cognitive processes, sociability, productivity (due to better physical and mental health) and quality of life in general. People who exercise tend to enjoy a longer life and participate more fully in society. This is the main message of the 2017 National Human Development Report for Brazil, entitled “Movement is Life: Sports and Physical Activities for Everyone.” In Brazil, recent research shows that the states with the highest rates of human development are also those where the population enjoys more exercise and participation in sport. For instance, in 2015 the Federal District had both the highest rate of sports participation in Brazil and ...

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