Hongkongers frowning deeper as happiness index shows decline

Happiness among young people saw the sharpest drop, with many feeling as though their lives had no sense of purpose

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 11:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 November, 2016, 11:20pm

Hongkongers feel the unhappiest in a decade, particularly younger people, as they are upset by the ill-fated political reform and confrontational society, according to a survey by two Hong Kong universities.

The Hong Kong Happiness Index Survey, conducted by the Faculty of Business of Chu Hai College and Lingnan University in September over 920 people, saw the index fall to 67.6 in 2016 - on a scale of zero to 100 - from 70.0 last year.

It is the lowest since 2007’s figure of 67.2.

The decline impacted all age groups, but those aged 29 and below saw the widest decline, falling from 69.3 in 2015 to 63.8, the lowest score in the last 10 years.

When asked whether “life was really worth living” – a life with a sense of meaning or purpose – the 29 and below age category saw a sharp decline.

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Principal investigator of the survey, Chu Hai College dean of business Professor Ho Lok-sang, attributed the decline to dissatisfaction with political reform, a highly confrontational society or young people focusing on matters beyond their control.

“Young people tend to think about things which are really beyond their control, which is not really useful,” Ho said.

“At the same time, they may not be doing what they can within their control and I really think that’s the main problem ... I think that is very crucial to the low sense of happiness and low ability to find life worth living.”

Shih Wing-ching, founder of property agency Centaline, who was in attendence at the press conference, said people needed to focus on themselves and find meaning in their lives before focusing on external matters.

The survey also showed the longer the working hours, the more significant the decline in happiness. Respondents who worked a standard work week of 40 to 49 hours per week, had a happiness rating of 6.88 – 0.01 point above the 2015 score. Those who worked 60 hours or more per week, meanwhile, had a rating of 6.26 – down from 6.56 last year.

Adding to the gloomy picture, this year saw the lowest happiness score for men since 2007. For women, it was the second lowest score in the past decade.

While overall happiness was down, specific categories of concern saw satisfaction increase. Those aged 30 and above saw satisfaction increases in public policy, media, the environment and public health care.

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But declines were seen in all four categories by respondents aged 29 and below, with the biggest falls in public policy and public health care.

Ho believes education on what people should focus on in life is the most important factor which could help reverse the trend of declining happiness in Hong Kong.

The index had seen a steady score from 2009 to 2015, ranging from 70.0 to 71.3.