Date
17 July 2019
People enjoy a sunny day at the Esplanade in Helsinki. Finland has been ranked the second happiest nation in the world for the second year in a row. Photo: Reuters
People enjoy a sunny day at the Esplanade in Helsinki. Finland has been ranked the second happiest nation in the world for the second year in a row. Photo: Reuters

Be generous – and be happy

It is better to give than to receive because being generous would make you a happier person.

This is one conclusion we can draw from the latest World Happiness Report, which suggests that donating time and money have a positive correlation in relation to happiness in society.

The report, which was released on March 20 to mark the International Day of happiness and is considered a good ranking of personal and emotional well-being among people in various countries, identified Finland as the world’s happiest nation, followed by Denmark and Norway.

Finland grabbed the top spot for the second year in a row in the list prepared by a UN group which ranks nations in terms of how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.

The report factors in six key variables that are deemed to support human well-being: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support, and generosity.

Finns are happier than residents in other countries because one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Finnish people is that they care about fellow citizens and are generous with each other, the report suggests.  

Greater China, meanwhile, has not done particularly well. Hong Kong ranked No.76 out of 156 countries, same as last year, while China dropped seven places to 93. If there is any consolation, it is Taiwan, which was ranked No. 25, ahead of most Asian countries.

One element that interests me in the UN report is how it ranked generosity among nations by analyzing the amount of donation they gave and the amount of volunteer work the people did.

Looking at Hong Kong, over 60 percent of the people had donated money, while 16.8 percent gave time for volunteer work.

That compares favorably with mainland China, where 40.5 percent donated money but only 4.8 percent donated time for volunteer work.

Almost the same proportion of Chinese and Taiwanese donated money, but Taiwanese top the Greater China region in donating time for volunteer work.

In the West, 7 percent of people in the United Kingdom donated money and almost 30 percent of its residents donated time, while in the United States the corresponding figures stood at 6 percent and 42 percent respectively.

Hong Kong people are generally rich but they do not have much time to spare. In a survey by a local charity group, HandsOn Hong Kong, 70 percent of Hong Kong people said they intended to do volunteering work, but only 26 percent actually did.

The grim reality is that most Hongkongers are too busy with everyday struggles in life amid soaring living costs, unaffordable housing and stressful jobs.

People don’t really have the luxury of time or too much capacity for generosity.

So, is it any wonder that the city scores relatively poor in the world happiness rankings?

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RC

EJ Insight writer

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