Singapore the happiest nation in Asia: UN study

SINGAPORE - If Singaporeans have any reason to smile, it's because their nation has moved up three places to be the 30th happiest country in the world.

This is according to a United Nations (UN) study ranking 156 countries and territories on happiness levels.

The little red dot is also Asia's happiest country for the second time, according to the second edition of the World Happiness Report, released on Monday.

On a scale from 1 to 10, Singapore got a score of 6.546. The study shows how people rate their emotional happiness and evaluate their life as a whole.

The report, by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, looked at six areas to determine why people in a country or territory are happier than those in others.

They are: gross domestic product (GDP) per capita; years of healthy life expectancy; having someone to count on in times of trouble; perceptions of corruption; prevalence of generosity; and freedom to make life choices.

The top five happiest countries were in Europe. Denmark is No. 1 with a score of 7.693, followed by Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden. After Singapore, the happiest countries and territories in Asia are Thailand (No. 36 globally), South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

The least happy countries were from Sub-Saharan Africa. Togo was in last place at No. 156, followed by Benin, the Central African Republic, Burundi and Rwanda.

The study used data from the Gallup World Poll of 3,000 people in each nation, surveyed over three years between 2010 and last year.

Respondents were asked to evaluate their current lives by imagining their quality of life as a ladder, with the best possible life for them as a 10, and the worst possible life, a zero, said the study.

Dr Ng Wei Ting, a senior lecturer of SIM University's psychology programme, said various studies have shown a person's perception of happiness is associated with a country's GDP, and this pattern has similarly been observed in Singapore.

But she said psychological needs, such as social support and autonomy, can also affect how people rate their well-being.

"The fulfilment of these psychological needs is not only crucial to one's life evaluation, but is also central to one's positive and negative feelings," said Dr Ng.

"For instance, nations that are high in social support score higher in life evaluation, and the importance of social support even extends beyond wealth."

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