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Hong Kong People Not Happy?

The International Wellbeing Group announced yesterday that Hong Kong people rate themselves as unhappier than the international average. Using a 10 point scale, with 7.5 as the average, Hong Kong came in at 6.5. Does this mean that the people of Hong Kong are really unhappier than Nigerians for instance who score at the top of the comparison – hardly likely. Hong Kong people just aren’t as comfortable expressing their happiness or lack of it.

What this piece of news proves is that when people are self-reporting, cultural factors enter in. For instance, Australians will use the whole scale while in Hong Kong almost no one chooses zero or 10. Another interesting piece of information was that 7.5 seems to be where happiness stops. No matter how many self-esteem or happiness-enhancing workshops you attend, it is highly unlikely that you will get above 7.5 except perhaps in a short burst of joy at some event’s outcome or due to alcohol or drug ingestion.

So if you wonder why no one in Hong Kong appears to be enjoying themselves or returning your smile as they walk down the street, it may be nothing more than a cultural inhibition and they could be happier than you are.