The Sustainable Development Solutions Network has unveiled the highly-awaited World Happiness Report for the year 2023, shedding light on the happiness rankings of 137 countries. This report takes into account a three-year average, spanning from 2020 to 2022, to provide a comprehensive analysis of overall happiness levels across the globe.
Since 2012, it has been relying on the Gallup World Poll data from approximately 1,000 responses for each country on an annual basis. This survey employs six key factors to gauge the life evaluations of citizens in each country. These include income or GDP per capita, health life expectancy (both physical and mental), social support, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and the absence of corruption, all of which significantly contribute to life evaluations.
While Scandinavian countries have once again dominated the top 10, Singapore is the only Southeast Asian country among the world’s top 50. This acclaims Singapore as the happiest nation in the region! What about the remaining countries?
Singapore is standing tall at 25th place in the 2023 global rankings. With a score of 6,587, the country has climbed two spots from the prior year’s position. It is subsequently followed by Malaysia in Southeast Asia’s list, which has soared to the 55th position worldwide, marking an impressive leap of 15 places from 2022.
Thailand has experienced a modest improvement from the 61st to the 60th spot. At the same time, Viet Nam has also seen a positive shift, climbing from 77th in 2022 to 65th in 2023. These rankings specify Thailand as the third-happiest nation in Southeast Asia, with Viet Nam closely following as the fourth.
Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar statistics also show meaningful surges. Indonesia has spotted a slight increase from 87th to 84th in the last two years, or, in other words, managed to secure the 6th position within the region. Laos has made an ascending six positions to secure the global 89th spot this year, taking 7th place in Southeast Asia. Cambodia has encountered an increase from the 114th to the 115th spot. Meanwhile, Myanmar has witnessed a notable improvement, climbing to the 117th after previously holding the 126th. Cambodia and Myanmar are then placed in the bottom two positions within the region.
While the eight countries above demonstrated an increase, only data from the Philippines indicated a distinct pattern. The Philippines, coveted as the 5th happiest country in Southeast Asia, experienced a steep drop in its worldwide rank from the 60th spot in 2022 to the 76th spot in 2023. However, there is no data available for Brunei Darussalam or Timor-Leste.
However, numerous critics have emerged, both in conventional and online mass media, to challenge this report. These doubters highlight the alarmingly high rates of suicide, pointing to a contradiction in those countries labeled as the happiest on earth. In the latest Suicide Worldwide Report by the World Health Organization (WHO), Finland, the world’s number one happiest country for six consecutive years, experienced a staggering figure of 15.29 crude suicide rates (per 100,000 population) in 2019. This rate implies Finland is in the highest category; comparatively, other categories below it include rates ranging from 10-15, 5-10, and under 5 as the lowest rate of suicide.
The happiest country in Southeast Asia also exhibited a similar pattern. Singapore’s crude suicide rate (per 100,000 population) was the highest in the region in 2019, accounting for 11.21. A non-profit suicide prevention service, Samaritans of Singapore, Ltd., states that this trend reflects the increasing mental distress caused by various factors, such as societal pressures and economic uncertainty.
In Myanmar, a paradoxical trend emerged. Despite having the lowest happiness level in the region, surprisingly, the data indicated a low suicide rate of around 2.9. An identical trend also appeared in Indonesia, with a recorded rate of 2.42, Brunei at 2.7, and the Philippines at 2.15.
What is your opinion of this World Happiness Report? To what extent do you agree with this report?