Singaporean youths speak up on what makes them happy

Singapore, 14 March 2013 – Results of a survey on what makes Singaporean youths happy have revealed the top three answers as travelling, spending time with family and friends, and making a positive contribution to society.

Some 1,800 polytechnic and university students aged 18 to 25 were asked to write down something meaningful in life that they want to do and which makes them happy. A variety of answers were collected, ranging from dance to self-improvement to setting up one’s own business.

The survey also found the top three factors that make Singaporeans youths happy. 20% listed travel, 10% chose spending time with family and friends whereas another 10% said they feel happy by contributing to society.

The responses were gathered during outreaches conducted at Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University, Singapore Institute of Management, Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic, from 23rd January to 3rd March this year.

Although Singapore may be one of the world’s richest nations, with one of the highest high GDP per capita, it is also one of the unhappiest. In 2012, Singapore made news for its ranking as the 90th  happiest nation (among 151 countries) surveyed in the Happy Planet Index and was even listed as the most “emotionless” society in the world according to a Gallup poll in November.

In response, the youths behind the campaign decided to do something to change the way happiness is perceived in Singapore.

“Many of the youths we spoke to initially said getting good grades and a good job would make them happy, but after we explained to them the concept of fleeting happiness and the hedonic treadmill, they realized the problem of perceiving happiness as such, and started to think realistically about happiness in terms of what they can do and the things in life that matter to them”, said Ms. Fiona Cher, 23, who heads the campaigns.

The hedonic treadmill is an important concept in happiness studies, comparing the pursuit of happiness to a person on a treadmill, who has to keep on running just to maintain at the same level. This often happens when happiness is tied to good grades, career success and material wealth, which is the situation in Singapore.

However, personal priorities have been shown to be extremely important in determining one’s satisfaction with life. One way is through engagement in meaningful activities, which has been shown to help increase one’s level of happiness, in turns leading to a higher state of well-being and multiple health benefits.

The team hopes the movement will change the way happiness is perceived in Singapore and motivate Singaporeans to take happiness into their own hands.

Participants can share their thoughts on what makes them happy and contribute a pledge online at