We're among world's unhappiest

Hongkongers are among the most unhappy people on Earth.

Sophie Hui

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Hongkongers are among the most unhappy people on Earth. But take heart: we only rank seventh among the world's woebegones.

This is the finding of a global study by Gallup International, which interviewed more than 50,000 people in 55 countries or regions between October and December last year, with about 1,000 men and women in each place taking part.

The poll asked: "In general, do you personally feel very happy, happy, neither happy nor unhappy, unhappy or very unhappy about your life?"

Hong Kong dropped five places from the last survey and is still the only East Asian region to feature in the top 10 unhappy places, with a net happiness score of 29, the same as South Africa and Turkey.

On economic optimism, Hong Kong scored minus 11, lower than the global economic optimism index of minus 2.

The unhappiest place on Earth is Iran, now plagued by anti-government protests. It had a score of five, followed by Iraq with seven and Ukraine with eight.

Apart from Hong Kong, other Asian countries surveyed were Bangladesh, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. The mainland and Taiwan were not included.

Fiji is the happiest country, with a score of 92, followed by Colombia with 89 and Philippines with 84.

The polling organization said the world shares a net happiness of 49 in the latest survey, compared with 59 a year ago. Most people in the polled countries are happy.

Ijaz Gilani, of Gallup Pakistan, said people under 34 years are usually happier than those above 55, while the upper class and more educated people are happier than poorer and less educated people.

Psychiatrist Jackie Fu Chi-kin said the political environment, the housing problem and the great disparity between the rich and the poor make Hong Kong people unhappy.

He said Hongkongers feeling unhappy is not very much due to the quality of life.

"Hong Kong is a relatively rich place, no one will starve to death, and there is a safety net in which we have the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance, but people are still feeling unhappy," Fu said.

"People can see the world from their mobile phone and their social views have been expanded.

"Some 60 or 70 years ago, many lived in squatter or resettlement areas, but the atmosphere was very different from now as people then believed there was room for them to move upward if they worked hard.

"But people now think they can't change their social status even if they make great efforts."

Social-welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said: "The grassroots are worried about material things, while the middle class is worried about freedom."

Shiu said the negative social atmosphere was related to governance, and the government needs to bring people hope.

"Salaries for fresh graduates have not changed over the past 10 years," he said.

"But rents and housing prices have kept going up."

sophie.hui@singtaonewscorp.com