31 October 2014

Rise in happiness in middle income Asian nations: Pew Research

People in emerging economies are more satisfied with their lives today than they were in 2007. A Pew Research Center survey* finds that publics in emerging nations now rival those in advanced economies in their self-reported well-being. The rise in happiness among middle income countries is driven in large part by attitudes in Asian nations, such as China, Indonesia and Malaysia. People in developing economies are also happier today than they were seven years ago, though the improvement has been more modest.

Pew said the convergence in attitudes between middle and high income nations is not due to a significant decline in satisfaction in richer countries, despite the toll the global recession took on advanced economies’ growth rates. Personal well-being changed little in most of the wealthier nations surveyed in both 2007 and 2014, including in Japan, the consultancy noted.

National income continues to be closely linked to personal life satisfaction at the country level. Richer publics, on average, report being happier. For example, 56% of Malaysians rate their life as a 7 or higher on 0-10 scale, whereas 34% of people in Bangladesh, a much poorer country, say the same. However, the advantages of being in a rich nation tend to taper off among the wealthiest countries, suggesting that after a certain point, increasing income does not make as much of a difference in life satisfaction. To continue with the example, despite the enormous gap in GDP per capita between Malaysia and Germany, these two publics express similar levels of life satisfaction (56% and 60%, respectively). 

Similarly individuals with higher incomes, more education, more key household goods and paid employment are more satisfied with their lives than people who are less well-off.

When asked about the next five years, Asian and African publics are the most optimistic among emerging and developing countries. People in the Middle East are the least hopeful about the future.

*The Pew Research Center survey was conducted in 43 countries among 47,643 respondents from March 17 to June 5, 2014. The question "Here is a ladder representing the 'ladder of life'. Let’s suppose the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom, the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder do you feel you personally stand at the present time?" was asked in all 43 countries. The report generally focuses on the differences and similarities in life satisfaction across economically advanced, emerging and developing nations. Read more about the survey here.