Thufferin' thuccotash!

According to a recent international Gallup poll, 14% of the Hong Kong population rated their lives poorly enough to be considered “suffering”. That’s higher than China (at 12%) and Taiwan (at only 5%), and the second highest in Asia, after the Philippines (at 17%).

Before looking into the findings more deeply, we should like at how the percentages are derived. Here’s an explanation from the Gallup website:

“Gallup classifies respondents as "thriving," "struggling," or "suffering" according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. Gallup considers people to be suffering if they rate their current lives a 4 or lower and their lives in five years a 4 or lower. The respondents do not label themselves as suffering. Average global suffering has remained relatively unchanged over the past several years.”

It didn’t come as a surprise to me that Hong Kong didn’t fare well in the poll. I do not need to read the report of this poll to know that Hong Kong people are not happy souls. I can read the faces of the people I come across in my daily commute to and from work. Mostly, there is no jubilation in them, only exhaustion or dissatisfaction.

Contrast the demeanors of Hong Kong people with those of, say, Danish people. They always top the rankings of the world’s happiest people. The poll mentioned above, for example, shows that only 2% of the Danish people were suffering. The funny thing is that wealth probably has nothing to do with this. In 2011, Hong Kong’s GDP per capita, at USD49,342, is higher than Denmark, at USD37,741, and much more so than China, at USD8,394. Yet, we are more miserable.

Ironically, the very reason for our misery may actually have to do with money. It is not about how much money we have, but how we chase it. Among the most consistent findings in the study of human behaviour is that the more people value pursuing material wealth and the accumulation of material possessions, the less happy they are. Sad to say, these things take up a large part, if not most, of the adult lives of Hong Kong people.

That does not leave much space for anything else, including happiness.

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