Rain or shine, crisis after crisis, calamity after calamity, we Filipinos are still smiling and laughing it off. Foreigners find this peculiar attribute among Filipinos as positive in dealing with life’s hardships in one’s personal life and even at work.
Low happiness scores
But based on a recent study on Asian countries’ Happiness Index conducted by Eden Strategy Institute, the Philippines ranked only third behind Singapore and Malaysia, which are first and second respectively. Based on more than 200 million social media accounts in the five countries covered by the study, the country scored only 90 points in the Happiness Index, while Singapore scored of 518 points, followed by Malaysia at 245 points.
In a similar finding last year, the World Happiness Report published by Columbia University’s Earth Institute ranks the country among the least happy or 103rd out of 155 surveyed countries worldwide. The top ten happiest nations, according to the study, were mostly in Northern Europe, which despite the Euro crisis, are nonetheless first world countries.
The rankings were based on a “life evaluation score,” which takes into account a range of factors, including good health, access to education, political freedom, quality of relationships, and trusting communities.
Both findings, albeit different in their methodologies, show that happiness is related to the economic standing of a country which is reflected in how people live and conduct their lives in terms of income, access to education, and so on.
Moreover, the findings are in stark contrast to the common perception that the Filipinos are one of the happiest people, as averred by foreigners who see us smile and laugh despite the crisis and difficulties in life.
Consistent to the findings, the country also has the highest incidence of depression in Southeast Asia, according to the Department of Health. We as a people are obviously good in hiding our sadness with a smile and laugh.
What makes us happy?
So what will make the Filipinos truly live the common knowledge that we are one of the happiest people in the world?
According to the 2010 study of the National Statistical Coordination Board, the top three factors that make Filipinos happy are family, health, and religion.
Family obviously ranks first as we find comfort in the company of our family members and even extended ones. We love to celebrate birthdays, christenings, and anniversaries with family members and friends. But we also want to provide the best education to our children and give them the comforts in life, which are all tied up to how much we earn.
Health is second, which supports the first source of happiness—we want to be healthy as well as our family members so we enjoy each other’s company. This is also the reason why employees look for comprehensive health benefits from their employers. But then again, being healthy entails costs. To stay healthy nowadays entails proper nutrition and exercise, apart from securing a health plan.
Third is religion that plays a part on giving smiles to Filipinos. Our deep faith allows us to hope for something better in the future. As one of the most religious people in the world, we pray and attend worship services regularly in the company of our family, who again we want to take care of and provide the necessities in life.
Key to happiness
So, how will Filipinos become happier? It all boils down to access to jobs, stability, and income to support the sources of happiness.
The Philippines posted a whopping 7.8-percent growth in the first quarter—one of the highest in the world! It’s going to be more fun in the Philippines, I hope.
Reynaldo C. Lugtu Jr. teaches strategy, management and marketing courses in the MBA Program of De La Salle University, Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. He may be e-mailed at [email protected], or visit his blog at http://rlugtu.blogspot.com.
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of De La Salle University, its faculty, and its administrators.