Filipinos among world’s unhappy people


Filipinos are among the most unhappy people on the planet, according to the 2013 Word Happiness Report, a study released Monday, Sept. 9.

No surprise there. The UN Conference on Happiness, which commissioned the study, used freedom to pursue life’s choices among the criteria to arrive at the ranking, along with the absence of government corruption and political oppression, among others.

There is no such freedom in the Philippines. What the country has—in great measure—is government corruption and political oppression. No wonder it ranks 92nd out of 156 countries. It has slightly improved its ranking, from 103rd the previous year, but it is still depressingly near the bottom.

The top five happiest people in the world are those who come from Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. These people have what it takes to be happy. Their governments really work hard to serve them, too.

Although the study doesn’t say anything about it, poverty is the primary reason for the Filipino people’s unhappiness.  And poverty arises from the lack of choices open to them.

The great majority of the population is mired in poverty. Obviously, people cannot be happy when they worry where the next meal is coming from. The middle class cannot be happy either, in the midst of so much poverty.

And the rich?  The misery outside their gated communities rarely intrudes in their consciousness. Or maybe they just don’t care. They can always fly out of the country if things get really bad. In fact, they already have their swanky apartments abroad.

Sure, wealth is no guarantee for happiness. But poverty is a prescription for unhappiness. And given the depth and persistence of poverty in the Philippines, unhappiness has long metamorphosed into despair.

Of course, oppression and corruption make people unhappy.  And we have more of that than most other countries. Just look at the thievery—graft and corruption is too mild a term—at the highest levels of the government. The pork barrel scam does not make people unhappy. It enrages them, enough to want their leaders torn to pieces.

The report says the Danes, the Norwegians, the Swiss, and other Northern Europeans are happy because they are most trusting of people. We don’t know if Filipinos trust their countrymen, but they certainly regard their leaders with suspicion, and the latest corruption scandal has reinforced that feeling.

Another pre-condition for a happy life is freedom of choice. The lack of job opportunities—never mind job security—and the poverty it engenders limit that freedom.

It is no surprise then that people in poor and ill-governed countries are the least happy: Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, Benin, and Togo.

But the Philippines shouldn’t feel so snooty about it. It already lags behind Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. If the disorder brought by corruption persists, we will see Myanmar and Cambodia, which rank 121st and 140th, respectively, pulling ahead of us.

All five Northern European countries have a high per capita income, higher in fact than that of the United States. However, there are no mansions for the rich and very few flashy cars ply the streets. One striking scene is that of people going to work, to school, and to the grocery store on bicycles.

There are very few millionaires in these countries, if any. In contrast, the Philippines has hundreds of them—in dollars at that—and some of them make it to the list of the world’s richest year after year. The media dutifully report the story and splash their photos and names on the front page, leading us to believe that they take pride in it.
In a country like ours, where the great majority of people are dirt poor, we ought to hang our head in shame.


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  1. The perception of Filipinos among the unhappy people in the world is mostly true, specially among the middle class and the poor, for most they feel being taken advantaged by the rich, the leaders the trusted to improve their lives, betrayed them. The politicians promised them the moon and the stars during election, and look what happen. The billions of pesos appropriated to improve the lives of the poor were stolen by their trusted leaders, to no end in site, what is left are empty promises. Yes, these poor people have options to improve their lot, but they failed miserably in using them. Most, they do not even vote during election and if they do, they sell their vote to these corrupt candidates, out of (utang ng loob.) Filipinos out of the country feel helpless and depressed watching helplessly, the country sinking into the sea of corruptions, apathy, confusion, kidnapping, killing the members of the press who dares to criticize the shenanigans of the corrupt officials, and among others. Meantime the rich, not only refuse to help the poor, but continue to enjoy their rich lifestyle, refuse to acknowledge that they even exist. The only hope for the poor, if they use their vote wisely during the next election to elect a strong candidates with good moral pedigree, scrupulous individual, and prosecute these corrupt officials enriching themselves by stealing the peoples money. Otherwise the cycle continue. My hope is that, all these will come to pass, and that the day will come, when Filipinos will be happy again. May God bless us all.

  2. Happiness is hard to measure. I’ve only visited Manila twice but found the people intelligent and interesting,. I liked what I saw of the people and always wondered about the state of mind of the friendly people I saw. I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia, and met many people from the Phils. in Hong Kong. I remember the way the Filippina maids made the most of their day off when they converged on the parks in Central and enjoyed the company of their friends.
    Recently in HCMC, i was asked for directions by a woman one would have assumed was Vietnamese, but, I could not help asking her if she was a Filippina. “Yes,” she said surprised and laughing. “How did you know?” I told her she looked happy, so I thought she must be from the Philippines. It was a pleasant encounter.
    Recently, I was having a beer with some friends from Berlin I work with and mentioned that it was hard to believe how people in the Phils,,who were exposed to so many difficulties ( corruption, typhoons, volcancos, earthquakes, floods and terrorism) could be so cheerful . All that my German friends could say was, “not like us,”
    There are be many ways to measure happiness.

  3. The glaring reasons why the Filipinos are one of the saddest demographics on earth is our birth culture. The elected officials who are voted in promise the moon and the stars, but end up looting the goverment. The people KNOW this, but is condoned, and regarded as a “natural thing to do.” I’ve always believed that poor countries int he world have one thing in common: POROUS LAWS. Laws are only implemented aginst the poor, while the rich can murder, loot and shit all over the place. Bribery is pretty rampant on these countries that have porous laws, which is why mayhem reigns and stay as a part of the culture. A very good example of this is the Philippines.