‘Low income, lack of social support sadden Filipinos’


Low GDP per capita and lack of social support have made the Philippines one of the least happy countries in Asean, according to the results of the latest World Happiness Report (WHR).

The report, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Center for Sustainable Development at the Columbia University’s Earth Institute, among others, ranked the Philippines 76th out of 137 countries in 2020 and 2021. No survey was conducted in the Philippines in 2022.

In the region, Singapore was the topnotcher and ranked 25th overall followed by Malaysia at 55th; Thailand, 60th; and Vietnam, 65th. Indonesia ranked below the Philippines at 84th overall.

“People are judging the state of affairs by the level and distribution of well-being, both within and across generations. People have many values [like health, wealth, freedom and so on] as well as well-being. But increasingly, they think of well-being as the ultimate good, the summum bonum,” the report stated.

“We suggest that the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 and beyond should put much greater operational and ethical emphasis on well-being. The role of well-being in sustainable development is already present, but well-being should play a much more central role in global diplomacy and in international and national policies in the years to come,” it added.

Based on the report, the Philippines garnered an overall score of 5.52. The country that topped the index, Finland, had an overall score of 7.8 while the country at the bottom of the index, Afghanistan, had an overall score of 1.859.

The Philippines’s score can be explained by factors such as GDP per capita which accounted for 1.238 of this score followed by social support at 1.108 and the freedom to make life choices, 0.714.

Other factors were health and life expectancy which accounted for 0.286 of the Philippines’s overall score; corruption perceptions, 0.141; and generosity, 0.104.

There is also a factor termed “dystopia” which accounted for 1.931 of the country’s overall score. Dystopia is an imaginary country that has the world’s least-happy people.

“The purpose of establishing Dystopia is to have a benchmark against which all countries can be favorably compared [no country performs more poorly than Dystopia] in terms of each of

the six key variables. The lowest scores observed for the six key variables, therefore, characterize Dystopia,” the report read.

“Since life would be very unpleasant in a country with the world’s lowest incomes, lowest life expectancy, lowest generosity, most corruption, least freedom, and least social support, it is referred to as ‘Dystopia,’ in contrast to Utopia,” it added.

Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand joined Finland in the list of the 10 happiest countries.

Austria and Australia follow in 11th and 12th positions, as last year, both within the likely range of 8th to 16th. They are followed by Canada, up two places from last year’s lowest-ever ranking. The next four positions are filled by Ireland, the United States, Germany, and Belgium, all with ranks securely in the top 20, as shown by the rank ranges.

The world’s 10 least happy countries include Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Malawi, Comoros, Tanzania, and Zambia.

“There remains a large gap between the top and bottom countries, with the top countries being more tightly grouped than the bottom ones,” the report read.

It has been over 10 years since the first World Happiness Report was published. And it is exactly 10 years since the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/281, proclaiming March 20 to be observed annually as International Day of Happiness.

“Since then, more and more people have come to believe that our success as countries should be judged by the happiness of our people. There is also a growing consensus about how happiness should be measured. This consensus means that national happiness can now become an operational objective for governments,” the report read.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes