Given that we are usually ranked amongst the top in any conceivable good indexes in the world, shouldn’t our happiness follow suit?

We have amongst the world’s highest GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, and integrity in government and businesses. And according to the Programme for International Assessment (PISA), we also deliver one of the world’s best educations.

Yet, Singapore is placed at 31st in terms of happiness by the World Happiness Report (WHR) 2020. The top spots are often secured by the Nordic countries.

WHR ranks country’s happiness based on citizens’ evaluation of their lives: If 0 being one’s worst possible life and 10 being one’s best possible life, where does one position oneself on a ladder from 0 to 10?

Besides happiness, other well-being factors that may contribute to happiness are also being measured (such as those listed below):

  • GDP per capita
  • Healthy life expectancy
  • Perception of integrity in society
  • Freedom to make life’s choices
  • Social support
  • Generosity

WHR tries to explain our happiness using the above six factors. The table below shows Singapore’s 2020 rankings on happiness and the six well-being factors.

Factor Happiness Factor 1:
GDP per Capita
Factor 2:
Healthy Life Expectancy
Factor 3:
Perception of Integrity in Society
Factor 4:
Freedom to Make Life’s Choices
Factor 5:
Social Support
Factor 6: Generosity
2020 Ranking
(out of 153 countries)
31st 2nd 1st 1st 14th 37th 57th


Out of 153 countries, Singapore ranked 31st in terms of happiness. However, we ranked top in terms of healthy life expectancy, and perception of integrity in society. In terms of GDP per capita, we came in 2nd.

Our society is rich; we live longer and healthier lives; and we have an efficient system built upon the foundation of integrity.

Yet, there are other factors that may be preventing us from reaching the top places in terms of happiness.

These factors are much closer to heart.

Our economic focus up to this point has made us rich and helped us build the best physical and medical infrastructures in the world.

But for us to reach Maslow’s higher levels of human progress, it may be time to invest in individual and social capital. Our society has done a great job to meet our physiological and safety needs – two lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Once these needs are met, we strive for something more, such as to be part of a strong social network, to live out our potential, and finally to live for something bigger than ourselves.

When we become a part of a strong social network, we build social capital. We can realise our potential through cultivating passion and purpose, and they are related to building individual capital.

When we eventually live for something bigger than ourselves for the betterment of others, not only do we build individual capital, we increase social capital. This is known as altruism.

Money, health care, and safety are important factors that contribute to our happiness. Once these needs are met, we need something closer to our hearts, such as passion, purpose, and altruism.

Truly, then Singapore will become a place where no one is left behind.


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