Scales of happiness | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

Scales of happiness

/ 05:08 AM March 23, 2019

Last week, SWS released its 2018 survey findings on subjectively-assessed well-being, showing that the totals of the happy and the satisfied with life among Filipino adults had fallen to their lowest in the past five years (see “Fourth Quarter 2018 Social Weather Survey: Happiness and Satisfaction with Life fall to lowest levels since 2014,”, 3/17/19).

Happiness as an emotion. The total happy is the sum of the proportions that called themselves talagang masaya (very happy, 39 percent) and medyo masaya (fairly happy, 48 percent) to the SWS interviewers. The total unhappy, on the other hand, are those that called themselves hindi masyadong masaya (not very happy, 11 percent) and talagang hindi masaya (not at all happy, 2 percent).


The adjective masaya indicates that this is about happiness as an emotion, or what psychologists refer to as (positive) affect. Simply put, it is about feeling good. SWS has surveyed it more or less regularly since 2001 (15 times under Arroyo, 11 times under B. Aquino, and 5 times under Duterte).

The 87 percent feeling good is the lowest since the 85 percent of December 2014. On the other hand, the 13 percent feeling bad is the highest in the Duterte period so far.  It was equalized in April 2016, and last exceeded by the 15 percent of December 2014.


This simple masaya-scale has only four points, and thus no middle point that can readily be designated as neither favorable nor unfavorable. However, my personal choice is to take the second point, medyo masaya, as the one closest in meaning to “neutral.” It almost always has the plurality of answers, and therefore is quite normal.

Net Happy is +26. I therefore propose to define the surplus of the talagang masaya, who are definitely happy, over the hindi at talagang hindi masaya, who are definitely unhappy, as “Net Happy.” Then Net Happy would be +26 = 39 – 13 for December 2018, compared to the previous low under the Duterte time of +29 = 40 -11 in September 2017.

Satisfaction with life as cognition. The total satisfied with life is composed of those that said they were lubos na nasisiyahan (very satisfied, 34 percent) or else medyo nasisiyahan (fairly satisfied, 48 percent) with their present lives. This is a cognitive or rational, rather than emotional, assessment. I like to call this being well; the current total is the lowest since December 2014.

The total dissatisfied with life are 17 percent, composed of those hindi nasisiyahan (not satisfied, 14 percent) and those lubos na hindi nasisiyahan (not at all satisfied, 3 percent) with life. SWS has run this item 13 times under Arroyo, 15 times under B. Aquino, and 7 times under Duterte.

Net Satisfied with Life. The nasisiyahan sa buhay scale likewise has only four points, of which the second, medyo nasisiyahan, almost always has the plurality. I will define the surplus of those in the category lubos na nasisiyahan, or definitely satisfied with life, over the hindi at lubos na hindi nasisiyahan, or definitely dissatisfied with it, as Net Satisfied with Life (NSWL).

NSWL was negative in 12 of 13 surveys on satisfaction with life in Arroyo’s time—as low as -23 in September 2002, and no higher than +4 in June 2004. On the other hand, in 15 surveys in B. Aquino’s time, it was always positive—single digit 5 times, and no less than as +2, and double-digit 10 times, topped by +29 in September 2015. Now the latest NSWL is only +17 for December 2018, the weakest of the Duterte time so far.

The trend in the people’s well-being should be watched, and not taken


for granted.

Contact [email protected]

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TAGS: Filipinos, happiness, Mahar Mangahas, masaya
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