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Rachel Tan
Saturday, Apr 25, 2015

Singapore

Singapore ranked happiest country in Asia, so please smile

The Straits Times | Rachel Tan | Saturday, Apr 25, 2015

IT IS a topic that has occasionally raised eyebrows here, but now the frowns are giving way to smiles.

Singapore has just been named one of the 25 happiest nations in the world, and the happiest in Asia, in the 2015 World Happiness Report.

This is a far cry from the glum picture painted by some past surveys. A poll conducted in 2011 by research firm Gallup showed that Singaporeans were the least likely to experience positive emotions out of people in 148 countries.

But as far as the wide-ranging study by the United Nations is concerned, Singapore has continued to become a happier place. In 2012, when the first in the series of UN surveys was released, Singapore was ranked 36th out of nearly 130 nations. In 2013, it rose to 30th place and is now No. 24 out of 158 nations.

The largest contributing factor to Singapore's high ranking in the report is its gross domestic product per capita, which was $71,318 last year.

Other indicators used to determine happiness levels are life expectancy, freedom to make choices and available social support.

Not all surveys tell the same story. In 2012, the Happy Planet Index placed Singapore 90th out of 151 countries, behind countries such as Syria and Libya.

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan said measuring Singapore's happiness is a subjective matter.

"If you look at the progress of the state, it has moved to a better place. We don't have turbulence like other countries, and there is strong trust in the Government."

But she said Singaporeans could be frustrated about living in a place with high population density and work stress.

"When we are crammed together in a bus, for example, it invokes a very negative reaction," she added.

Trader Lek Lee Yong, 52, said she was not surprised by the results as the study looked at areas such as economic performance and levels of corruption, where Singapore does well.

She said: "We have good transport and education, thus we are ranked high in the happiness report - because they looked at material factors."

Student Cheryl Tham, 19, could not believe that Singaporeans were that happy.

"Singaporeans generally are too caught up over academic grades, outcomes and materialism. Pragmatism still weighs heavily on people's minds despite affluence and the city's transformation," she said.

According to the report by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a UN initiative, Switzerland is tops when it comes to happiness, while Togo in West Africa is ranked bottom.

Thailand was the next happiest in Asia after Singapore. Other countries in the top 25 include Norway, Australia and Brazil.

rtan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 25, 2015.
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