Singapore: Once happiest, now unhappiest?

How did Singapore change from one of the happiest countries in the world to the unhappiest? “A recent Gallup report shows that Singapore’s wealthy population is the unhappiest — less happy than the populations of Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Syria,” reports CNN.

2011 Gallup happiness poll
2011 Gallup poll

Yet only two years ago, in 2010, National Geographic published a book covering Singapore and Denmark as two of the happiest countries in the world—based on earlier Gallup polls.

Dan Buettner wrote in Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way:

Independent studies conducted between 2000 and 2009 reported higher levels of happiness in Singapore than in any other Asian nation. The World Values Survey found 95 per cent of the people in Singapore were very happy or quite happy. In 2005-2009 the Gallup organization interviewed a cross-section of people in each of more than 130 countries around the globe. Citizens were asked to rank their current circumstances on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the “best possible life”. Researchers asked Singaporeans if they felt well rested, treated with respect, experienced smiling or laughing, engaged in learning or interest, or felt enjoyment, and also about negative experiences, including physical pain, worrying, sadness, stress, depression or anger, to arrive at a measure of daily experiences. Singaporeans rated a 6.9, and only 2 per cent reported feeling depressed.

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Thriving or struggling: Singapore and other countries

Thriving population (percentage)
Thriving population (percentage)

In an emotional world, Singapore is comfortably numb, reports  Bloomberg Newsweek, citing  Gallup surveys which found Singapore was the most emotionless society in the world. Not many Singaporeans said “yes” or “no” to questions like “Were you treated with respect all day yesterday?”, “Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday?”, “How about sadness?” Only 36 per cent of Singaporeans responded affirmatively to positive or negative questions, the report says, adding Singaporeans lack satisfaction at work, According to Gallup, only two per cent of the Singapore workforce is happy at work, compared with 11 per cent worldwide,

I couldn’t see those Gallup surveys myself. A free registration allows only a limited access to Gallup’s data.

However, I did see something that might be more surprising, Europeans and Americans are thriving more than Asians, according to Gallup.

Every day we hear about high unemployment and economic problems in the West. Asian economies from Singapore to China and India have been growing faster than those in the West. Yet, asked to evaluate their lives, more Asians than Westerners say they are having a hard time.

Respondents are classified by Gallup as “thriving” if they rate their current life a 7 or higher and their future life an 8 or higher on a scale of 10. Respondents are classified as “suffering” if they rate their current life 0 to 4 and their future life 0 to 4. Those who are neither “thriving” nor “suffering” are classified as “struggling.”  And by those measures more Westerners are thriving and more Asians struggling.

A larger section of the population is thriving in Singapore than in most other Asian countries. But even in Singapore the majority are struggling. In several Western countries, on the other hand, more than half the population is thriving, according to Gallup.

Here are the figures for Singapore, India, China, America, Britain and a few other countries and the dates when they were surveyed. The figures, being rounded off, don’t always add up to 100.Continue Reading