Food, job best foundations for success in pursuit of happiness

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2009, 12:00am

If you want to be happy, love your job and food, but not money. It also helps to be a woman and not to earn too much. That's the message from the latest Hong Kong happiness index, which has risen marginally overall as the financial crisis has eased.

But the annual Lingnan University survey found that while people earning less than HK$20,000 were appreciably happier than in the previous survey, those earning more were more miserable.

The poll of 828 people aged 21 and above between November 9 and 13, in which respondents were asked to rate their happiness on a scale of zero to 100, also found women were happier than men. Overall, the happiness level was 70.6, slightly higher than last year's 69.3 and the second rise in a row from a low of 67.2 in 2007.

Centre for Public Policy Studies director Professor Ho Lok-sang, who led the survey, said the rise was due to lower-income groups becoming happier this year - although they were still the least happy group.

Setting people's favourite activities against their happiness level, the pollsters found people who liked their jobs best were the happiest, scoring 77, followed by those who liked food and cooking, at 74.1.

The lowest, 62.7, comprised people who loved investment and making money most. 'Perhaps the reason people who like investment most are least happy is they are stressed too much about money and forget about their life,' Ho said. 'They should learn to enjoy their lives.'

The happiness index for those with a monthly household income of less than HK$10,000 was up 5.7 per cent, while for those on HK$10,000 to HK$19,999 it was up 8.2 per cent.

The index of those whose families made between HK$30,000 and HK$39,999 a month dropped 2.1 per cent, from 71.6 to 70.1. Those with monthly household income of at least HK$40,000 were also less happy than less year, their index level at 72.8, a 0.1 per cent drop from 72.9 last year.

Ho said the findings were in line with the economic recovery, with 26 per cent saying their financial situation had improved, compared with 20 per cent who said it was worse.

'As the financial situation improves, people feel less financial pressure - they don't have to worry about their job and they have a better chance of switching to another job. That's why they become happier,' he said. It was worth noting that while the lowest-income group felt happier, it remained the least happy group among the various income groups on average, he said.

The group also had the highest percentage of unhappy people - 8.7 per cent compared to 5.9 per cent for all income groups combined. The survey also found women, who put their happiness at 71.5 on average, were happier than men with 69.2.

The happiest groups by occupation were the retired, followed by housewives and clerks. Housewives were the happiest group in the past five years, returning a score of 73.3.

The survey also found that people with religious beliefs were happier, as were those who do volunteer work.