Why so glum? Hongkongers need to savour city's success

We're on top of world for economic freedom, a safe environment and longevity, but we rate low on smiles … so maybe it's time to start believing all the hype

Hongkongers have so much to be thankful for, so why don't we show it?

A string of international surveys released over the past 18 months have trumpeted the advantages of living in such a great city.

And one expert believes that if only residents could actually start to believe all the hype, they would feel much happier in themselves.

According to recent polls, Hong Kong has the most competitive economy in the world, with a relatively safe society. And Hongkongers lead long, healthy lives and enjoy a great deal of individual freedom.

Hong Kong was even crowned "the most liveable city" on the planet this year despite sky-high rents and pollution. But still we seem to frown more than smile.

The city lurks in 95th place in terms of our life satisfaction in a United Nations Human Development Report. And the New Economics Foundation seems to agree with this assessment. It said although our score of 5.6 out of 10 on its Happy Planet Index is higher than the world average of 5.28, it is a sad total given our longevity and GDP per capita.

Dennis Ng Wang-pun, chairman of the Promoting Happiness Index Foundation, believes the answer is to be more positive. "Of course there are issues and problems, but they will always be there," Ng said.

"I think that if Hongkongers focus more on the positive aspects of our society, we can be happier with ourselves and achieve so much more."

Hong Kong is still the world's most competitive economy, according to the World Competitiveness Yearbook, maintaining its top position from last year.

The city also topped the World Economic Forum's Financial Development Index - an annual assessment of financial systems - last year, replacing the United States at No1.

And for the 18th year running, the Heritage Foundation ranked Hong Kong top for economic freedom.

The city has also been given straight A grades this year by the Economic Intelligence Unit for its low-risk economic and political environment. It also ranked us the most liveable city last month - liveable, but expensive. As stated by the latest Prime Office Occupancy Costs survey, it has the world's priciest offices.

Residential rental is equally high, with the global consultancy ECA International calculating that a three-bedroom apartment in Hong Kong costs an average of US$11,810 a month. This has given the city the "Most Unaffordable Housing" title, according to Demographia.

But if you can afford Hong Kong, you should be safe living here.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the city boasts a homicide rate of less than 0.00003 per cent per year.

And despite a daily diet of car exhaust and factory fumes, the life expectancy of Hongkongers - at an average of 82.8 years - puts the city second out of 187 countries, says the UN Human Development Report.

While these global surveys generally paint a reasonably rosy picture of Hong Kong, it must be kept in mind that no matter how detailed a survey may be, reality may be different.

"It depends on how you interpret it," said Lui Tai-lok, Professor of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong. "Each ranking has different criteria, and a high ranking is not always a good thing. "For example, Hong Kong ranked first in economic freedom. This shows the government doesn't interfere with business a lot.

"But does that mean it's easier for businesses to succeed in Hong Kong? Not necessarily."

Perhaps the reason Hongkongers aren't as happy as they should be is that they don't get enough sex.

According to the latest Durex Global Sex Survey, Hongkongers have sex less than twice a week - and only 29 per cent of the respondents are actually satisfied.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: 'Don't worry, be happy' is message to Hongkongers