New data from the market research firm Ipsos ranks China top for global happiness and Chinese netizens had mixed reactions to the news.
The survey, released on March 20, reported that an impressive 91% of Chinese survey respondents said that they were “very happy” or “rather happy”, almost 20 points above the global average. This score increased 8 points from last year and 12 points from 10 years ago, with the ten-year change the highest among all countries surveyed. The top 5 reasons for respondents’ satisfaction with life were the following in ranked order: relationships with one’s children, relationships with partner/spouse, being in touch with nature, level of education, and relationships with relatives.
The survey was conducted between December 22 2022 and January 6 2023, two weeks after the Chinese central government reversed the three year-long zero-COVID strategy. This suggests that the overwhelmingly positive result for China could have been strongly influenced by the optimistic national mood that took hold as life returned to normal.
Unsurprisingly the topic attracted huge debate on the Chinese internet. A hashtag “Report says Chinese have highest happiness in the world” began circulating on the microblogging site Weibo, gaining 200 million views in the 48 hours after the report was released.
Netizens were quick to point out the limitations of the report’s data, even calling it “incomplete”. Comments stating that only 32 countries and only 700 people from China were surveyed received several thousand likes. Others wondered if they were in the 9% of people supposedly not happy in the country. The top comment under one post simply read “who is happy?” followed by crying emojis, and was liked over 30,000 times.
Others asserted how happy they are and suggested unhappy Weibo users don’t reflect reality and should take a break from the platform. Multiple people mentioned “social security” and a “stable social environment” as reasons for the positive results, as well as the lack of war. One comment summed up the contentment many netizens expressed: “The country is prosperous, the people are safe and healthy, my parents are alive, my children are well-behaved, life is safe and smooth! Isn’t it happiness?”.
This attitude could be related to the rise of positive psychology in China, a school of thought founded by American psychologist Martin Seligman that has been widely promoted in the country over the last decade as a result of state-sponsored campaigns. Positive psychology centres on the idea that individuals are in control of their own mental state and can improve their chances of success through positive thinking.