For Indians happiness is related to emotions like peace and harmony. For Americans it is joy and enthusiasm.
Relationships, a major contributor to well-being, for Indians is defined through family. In the west, it is characterised by work relationships and friends.
These are some cultural differences highlighted by a study on subjective well-being, SWB for short, conducted by the humanities department of IIT-B. SWB is a self-evaluation of your life, with relationships, happiness and satisfaction being major contributors.
Psychologist Tithi Bhatnagar presented a paper based on the study at the Society for Psychological Study of Social Indicators in Chicago last year.
The three-phase study, conducted over seven years, included 2,600 people from different socio-economic groups, including slums. More than two-thirds were from Mumbai.
The people studied were in the age group of five to 92 years and income group of nothing to Rs 36 crore a year.
“We have developed an Indian SWB index with 12 positive domains, such as relationships, health and resources, and nine negative domains, such as individual concerns or achievement issues, after understanding the concept of well-being that people here have,” said Bhatnagar, who has done the study.
Economics looks at well-being only through economic indicators. “Conventional economics tends to assume that more development is better and that we are all better off when we have more goods. But it is counter-productive,” said Rohit Parikh, a distinguished professor of mathematics and philosophy at City University New York, who has referred to Bhatnagar’s work.
“A train of thought that humans find their happiness in contact with other humans and relationships are what matters to people not goods is a step in the right direction.”
Said professor Meenakshi Gupta, head of humanities at IIT-B, who guided the research: “There has been no research on well-being of the general population in India. Economics interprets well-being through indicators such as expenditure and savings. This study aims at uncovering the social perspective of well-being.”