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Malaysia 'happier' than China but not as 'happy' as Singapore

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has climbed 11 places to 70th in the annual World Happiness Report by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The country had been observing a drop in happiness level over the last four years, from being ranked the 35th happiest nation in 2018, plummeting to the 80th spot in 2019, 82nd in 2020 and 81st in 2021.

The 2022 World Happiness Report, now in its 10th year, was released on Friday, ahead of the International Day of Happiness on March 20.

The scores and ranking were generated from a three-year-average of data collated between 2019 and 2021. It is based on the people's own assessment of their happiness, as well as economic and social data.

Malaysia, this time around ranking 70th of 146 countries surveyed, scored 5.711 in the measure for life evaluation in the 2022 report, up from 5.384 in 2021.

As for the breakdown of the six key variables that make up the life evaluation score, Malaysia gave 1.689 to GDP per capita, 0.938 to social support, 0.620 to healthy life expectancy, 0.654 to freedom to make life choices, 0.213 to generosity, 0.126 to perceptions of corruption and 1.471 to dystopia.

Nordic countries continued to dominate the happiness ranking, with Finland occupying the top spot for the fifth year running (with a life evaluation score of 7.821), followed by Denmark (7.636) and Iceland (7.557).

Other countries in the top 20 (in order of ranking) are Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Israel, New Zealand, Austria, Australia, Ireland, Germany, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Czechia, Belgium and France.

France reached its highest ranking to date, at 20th, while Canada slipped to its lowest ranking ever, at 15th.

In Southeast Asia, Singapore secured the top spot as the happiest nation, ranking 27. This was followed by the Philippines (60th place), Thailand (61), Vietnam (77), Indonesia (87), Laos (95), Cambodia (114) and Myanmar (126).

Taiwan ranked 26th, China was at the 72nd spot, Hong Kong at 81, Sri Lanka at 127 and India at 136.

The unhappiest countries were Afghanistan (146), Lebanon (145), Zimbabwe (144), Rwanda (143), Botswana (142), Lesotho (141), Sierra Leone (140), Tanzania (139), Malawi (139) and Zambia (137).

As the world is entering the third year of Covid-19, the 2022 report focused on three areas - looking back; taking a closer look at how people and countries were doing amid the pandemic; and looking ahead to how the science of well-being, and the societies under study, are likely to evolve in the future.

The latest list was completed before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The report noted that overall levels of life evaluations have been fairly stable during the two years of Covid-19.

Well-being inequality, it said has generally grown since 2011, especially in Sub Saharan Africa, MENA (the Middle East and North Africa region), Latin America, and South and Southeast Asia.

It said positive emotions have generally been twice as prevalent as negative ones.

"That gap has been narrowing over the past ten years, with enjoyment and laughter on a negative trend in most regions and worry and sadness on rising trends (with the general exception of Central and Eastern Europe).

"Over the past decade, the trend growth in worry and sadness has been greatest in South Asia, Latin America, MENA, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

"Anger has remained low and stable in the global average, with large increases in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa offset by trend declines elsewhere."

The report also found increases in national-average stress levels in all ten global regions.

"Individual-level data for emotions and life evaluations reveal that Covid-19 has worsened the well-being costs of unemployment and ill health. The pandemic has also exposed, but not increased, pre-existing differences between males and females and between those with low and high incomes.

"Fuelled by worry and sadness, but not by anger, negative affect as a whole was about eight per cent above its pre-pandemic value in 2020, falling to three per cent above baseline in 2021."

The Report is supported by The Ernesto Illy Foundation, illycaffè, Davines Group, Unilever's largest ice cream brand Wall's, The Blue Chip Foundation, The William, Jeff, and Jennifer Gross Family Foundation, The Happier Way Foundation, and The Regenerative Society Foundation.

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