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Latest figures on happiness

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Social Climate

Latest figures on happiness

/ 01:14 AM March 25, 2017

Two new statistical reports on happiness are out. The first, posted on March 19, is “Near record-high 91% of Pinoys are ‘Very/Fairly Happy’; 87% are ‘Very/Fairly Satisfied’ with life,” based on the December 2016 Social Weather Survey. The second is World Happiness Report 2017, released on March 20, the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness.

Happiness figures of SWS. The first measure in the SWS report is the proportion of Filipino adults saying they are very happy, fairly happy, not too happy, or not at all happy (talagang masaya, medyo masaya, hindi masyadong masaya, o talagang hindi masaya). This item was surveyed 30 times over 1991-2016. The new 91 percent for the upper half of this 4-point scale is second only to the record-high 92 percent in June 1996.

The second measure is the proportion saying they are either very or fairly satisfied with life as a whole (nasisiyahan sa buhay sa kabuuan). This had 30 surveys over 2002-2016.  The latest 87 percent for the upper half of the scale is second to the record-high 90 percent in September 2016. Both the first and the second measures have upward trends over time.

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The third measure is like the first, but has a 7-point scale, by adding a midpoint of might or might not be happy (maaaring masaya, maaaring hindi), and extreme end points of completely happy and completely unhappy (ganap na masaya, ganap na hindi masaya). In general, allowing a neutral answer is more realistic than forcing a choice between favorable and unfavorable sides.

This was used only in November 2012, in line with the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) in 44 other countries besides the Philippines at that time.  It found 8 percent of Filipinos in the middle or neutral point of the scale, 87 percent above neutral or generally happy, and 5 percent below neutral, or generally unhappy. The ISSP average was 81 percent generally happy, 14 percent neutral, and 5 percent generally unhappy.

The World Happiness Report (WHR) 2017 (http://worldhappiness.report/ed/2017). The WHR is a work of very reputable independent experts, in their personal capacities.  Its main indicator has a 0 to 10 scale, where 0 is the worst, and 10 is the best, possible life imaginable. Its life-evaluation scores are from the Gallup World Poll (GWP), now available for 155 countries, for people aged 15 and up.

The mass media have been quick to publicize Norway’s overtaking Denmark as “the happiest country in the world.” But country ranks have hardly changed. It is better to see how countries progress over time than to rank them at a given point.

Out of 126 countries with GWP data for both 2005-07 and 2014-16, 70 have gained (the top 10 are Nicaragua, Latvia, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, Moldova, Bulgaria, Russia, Slovakia, Chile and Uzbekistan) and 56 have lost (the bottom 10, from below, are Venezuela, Central African Republic, Greece, Botswana, Ukraine, Jamaica, Yemen, India, Saudi Arabia and Tanzania).

The Philippines is a respectable 20th among the gainers; it added +0.58, reaching 5.43 (Rank 72) at the end point.  Other gainers are Thailand (also +0.58), Cambodia (+0.51) and Indonesia (+0.29). Among the losers are Vietnam (-0.28), Singapore (-0.06) and Malaysia (-0.05).

In China, the WHR shows that, despite the fivefold rise of Gross Domestic Product in the past 25 years, life-evaluation and other measures of subjective wellbeing of the Chinese fell for 15 years before starting to recover.  Incidentally, China is 21st among gainers, adding +0.55 to reach 5.27 (Rank 79) at the end point, or well below the Philippines, despite China’s great economic advantage.

In the United States, the life-evaluation fell by 0.5 points on the 0 to 10 scale in the last decade, despite higher income and life expectancy that should have raised it by a slight 0.04. The WHR attributes 0.3 points of the fall to less social support, less sense of personal freedom, lower generosity, and more perceived corruption of government and business. Almost half of the fall is due to unknown factors.

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Contact mahar.mangahas@sws.org.ph.

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TAGS: Inquirer Opinion, International Day of Happines, Mahar Mangahas, Social Climate, Social Weather Stations, SWS survey on happiness
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