Singaporeans might be stereotyped to be interminable complainers yet they were ranked as the 34th happiest country in the world and the second happiest in Asia after 25th-ranked Taiwan in an annual survey released on Wednesday (March 20).
In addition, the top 10 happiest Asian territories also consisted of Thailand (52), Pakistan (67), Philippines (69), Hong Kong (76), Malaysia (80), Mongolia (83), Indonesia (92), and China (93).
The 2019 World Happiness Report by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network also ranked Finland as the world’s happiest country for its second year consecutively, followed by Denmark and Norway.
On the other hand, the least happy country among 156 countries surveyed was South Sudan which only gained independence 8 years ago, followed by the Central African Republic and Afghanistan.
Other countries considered the least happy were Tanzania, Rwanda, Yemen, Malawi, Syria, Botswana and Haiti.
The report which used the survey reports by Gallup, categorized the countries according to factors that induce happiness such as GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, the perception of freedom, generosity and levels of corruption.
Singapore topped all nations in terms of healthy life expectancy and absence of corruption, but it had some room for improvement in other factors like social support (36th), its perception of freedom (20th) and generosity (21st).
In comparison to Finland, the country’s happiness stems from its strong social support (2nd), an absence of corruption (4th) and high perception of freedom (5th).
The report also stated that the Scandinavian country possesses a strong social safety net that deters homelessness progressively and successfully. With a population of more than 5.5 million people, Finland commits to providing a high-quality education system as well as bridging the gender gap. It is also the only developed country where fathers spend more time with their school-aged children than mothers.
Aside from Finland, other European nations such as Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Netherlands were listed as the top 5 happiest, followed by Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria.
However, as quoted by the report’s co-editor John F. Helliwell, a senior fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research: “High economic growth does not necessarily go along with improvements in happiness. Indeed, it can often come at the expense of people’s social connections and the happiness of their daily lives.”
This was evident within some countries such as the United States which dropped to 19th on the list. Also, in spite of India’s immense GDP growth in the last decade, the country maintained its 140th spot.
Co-editor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, pointed out that addictions in the form of substance abuse to gambling and digital media are some of the main causes of significant unhappiness and depression in many countries.
He added that our obsession with the country’s economic growth should not be considered as the “sole or primary indicator” of the country’s well-being.