Friday, 21 December 2012

Singaporeans least happy people in the world. Don't migrate here!

On December 20, 2012, Asian Scientist Magazine reported a telephone survey done by Gallup in 2011 that concluded that Singaporeans were the Least Positive Worldwide. Their survey shows that only 46% of Singaporeans reported positive emotions in the preceding day (the telephone survey asks if respondents experienced 5 positive emotions the preceding day.

Apparently, this is a follow-up to an earlier report on the most and least emotional countries in the world. In that survey, Singaporeans were found to be the least emotional, with only 36% reporting ANY emotions, positive or negative.

And here we have the first internal inconsistency.

If only 36% of Singaporeans reported ANY emotions (positive AND negative), how can there be 46% reporting Positive emotions?

How did Gallup do this?

Gallup measured positive emotions in 148 countries and areas in 2011 using five questions. These questions ask people whether they experienced a lot of enjoyment the day before the survey and whether they felt respected, well-rested, laughed and smiled a lot, and did or learned something interesting.
 Gallup's table is on the right:

So 46% of Singapore respondents reported experiencing ALL 5 positive emotions asked about.

ALL 5.

The 5 questions included, "did you feel well-rested yesterday?".

So if you had answered "YES" to the other four ("treated with respect ALL day"; "Smile or laughed a lot"; "Learn or do something interesting"; and "Enjoyment") questions about positive emotions, BUT said NO to feeling well-rested, you would not be counted as part of the 46%.

What this tells me is that perhaps 54% of the respondents had school-going kids, had to wake them up at an ungodly hour, and were possibly sleep-deprived.

That's just one theory.

Alternatively, one could have experienced all 5 positive emotions, went home, talk to one's teenager, who was disrespectful to one, then got a call from Gallup the next day for the survey. And when answering the question, "Were you treated with respect ALL day yesterday?" thought about the snarky remarks from the potential juvenile delinquent living in your home, and said, "No".

In other words, there are flaws and generalisations in the survey and report.

Which is not to say that Singaporeans are the happiest people in the world, or the saddest. Gallup conclusions may well be correct, even if evidenced by flawed and faulty data.

"Well-rested" as a measure of happiness or positive emotions? Most Singaporeans I know are generally tired. Because they have jobs. Because they have to commute. And most importantly, because they have kids. Ask most parents if they are happy, and they may well tell you that they are happy and having kids is one of the reasons, but it is also the reason that they are sleep-deprived.
Residents of Singapore, which ranks fifth in the world in terms of GDP per capita, are the least likely to report positive emotions.

Higher income does not necessarily mean higher wellbeing. Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman and Princeton economist Angus Deaton found in the United States that income only makes a significant impact on daily positive emotions when earning up to $75,000 annually -- after that, additional income does not make as much of a difference. Leaders who are looking for ways to further improve the human condition in their countries -- especially those societies such as Singapore that are doing well on traditional economic indicators, but not necessarily behavioral metrics -- need to do more to incorporate wellbeing into their leadership strategies.
Surveys such as these serve to reinforce stereotypes or shared beliefs. Beliefs such as, money can't buy you happiness. You can tell people that beyond earning $75,000 annually, extra income will not make them happy. And they will be happy to tell you to go fly a kite as they work overtime for that promotion or that extra bonus.

Sure, Bhutan is the happiest place in the world. And what is their net migration?* Singapore may well be the unhappiest place in the world, and we have to keep people out.

Go figure.

But yeah. If you are reading this as part of your research as to whether you should move to Singapore, you have your answer.

In summary, Gallup has declared Singaporeans the unhappiest people in the world. You should move to Panama or Bhutan.

[*Afternote: Bhutan's net migration for 2012 is estimated at 0 per 1000 population. Singapore's net migration for the same year is estimated at 15.6 per 1000 population. Maybe Bhutan has very strict migration policy and does not allow new citizens cos that would upset their happiness. Damn Bhutanese Govt! Singapore Govt however believes that misery shared is misery halved. Apparently :-)]

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