Malaysia not very ‘happy’; many ‘struggling’


A Gallup global survey reveals that Malaysia is way down in the list of ‘happy countries’.

Respondents were asked how they felt the previous day and had to rate “whether they felt well-rested, respected, free of pain and intellectually engaged”.

Denmark is the ‘happiest’ country in the world, according to the Gallup survey results published in Forbes.

The ranking among Southeast Asian nations is as follows:

79 – Thailand
81 – Singapore
85 – Indonesia
91 – Burma (and Bangladesh)
94 – Malaysia and Philippines
96 – Vietnam
130 – Laos
148 – Cambodia

Does that explain the stressed out faces all around us? Eighty per cent of Malaysians are classified as ‘struggling’. That puts us in 19th place in the survey if countries are ranked in terms of the highest percentage of people struggling.

The Forbes said that Gallup researchers found a link between income levels and happiness.

I would think the real link is between social justice and happiness.

Many countries are obsessed with GDP growth as the over-riding measure of national success.

Wikipedia describes an alternative measure, ‘Gross National Happiness’ (GNH), which is used in Bhutan:

Like many psychological and social indicators, GNH is somewhat easier to state than to define with mathematical precision. Nonetheless, it serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan’s five-year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and development plans of the country. Proposed policies in Bhutan must pass a GNH review based on a GNH impact statement that is similar in nature to the Environmental Impact Statement required for development in the U.S.

The Bhutanese grounding in Buddhist ideals suggests that beneficial development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other.

The four pillars of GNH are:

  • the promotion of sustainable development,
  • preservation and promotion of cultural values,
  • conservation of the natural environment, and
  • establishment of good governance.

At this level of generality, the concept of GNH is transcultural—a nation need not be Buddhist in order to value sustainable development, cultural integrity, ecosystem conservation, and good governance.

Isn’t it time we started looking at the obvious flaws of GDP as a measure of success, especially when it doesn’t take into account environmental degradation, high stress levels and mental illness, rising crime, the wide gender gap, income disparities, pervasive corruption, abuse of human rights and the lack of civil and political liberties?

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It will be our fault if we keep quiet and not challenge by running for election. So we should keep an eye out for our fellow citizens and act by running for election if need be, so that ‘Evil Men Do Not Triumph By Our Inaction.’ … Netto, you appear to have the experience and years as well as finances to do this. How about running for election in YOUR constituency with the below 3 items as your goals? 1) Freedom from Apartheid/Fascism 2) Freedom from Religious-Persecution/Religious-Supremacy. 3) Equality for all ethnicities and faiths in all aspects of policy, Law… Read more »

Suk Given

The rankings do not have any substance and you can not comment unless you have travelled and lived in other countries. When I first went to Asia it was not so much about going to another country it felt like I was on another planet


Well, we have all grown up with the media for many decades now, ever since the television was borne. We also have had plenty of shows that instill good values, instead of focusing on the branding and materialism. Look at the Hallmark channel on Astro, it has plenty of feel-good, nice family shows that teaches you the good things in life. But you talk to the younger generation these days, their favourite program is most probably MTV or something like that. They’d rather watch soapy reality shows than to watch a real good drama. It’s just that in this day… Read more »

Sandiwara XYZ

I know very well that the present political goons just want to protect the corrupts and their cronies, and they just want to rip as much as possible from the people. I am very very angry and I will make sure that all my family members and grand children will vote these goons out.


While I applaud your sentiments, unfortunately I don’t think many Malaysians will follow the same thinking or ideology. Let’s face it. Our society IS based on appearances. And not only the physical sense. How you dress yourself, how you carry yourself, how your children behave etc. All reflect on which social standing you are in society. From young, we tell our kids that:”You must study hard so that you can get a good job. You should strive to become a doctor/lawyer/engineer etc” Should our kids one day tell us that they don’t want to study so hard, but they have… Read more »


I still think liberating the media is the way to achieve this: Malaysians need to read and hear and see social commentary (comedy shows, theatre, songs, editorials) pointing out their strenuously maintained superficial appearances. I think it would cause heart-ache: the idea that there might be an alternative way to live one’s life which would bring at least a similar level of happiness and self-fulfilment is only possible after first questioning if your current choices were all the best ones you could possibly have made. That kind of pain is part of growing up – the alternative is to be… Read more »


Have you heard about work passion? It has nothing to do with paycheck amount or job prestige or social status. It has more to do with your own inner calling, your love for the work you enjoy doing that makes Monday not that dreaded day of the week. It is what some of us don’t care to listen carefully in the busy, rat races to achieve or to fulfill the social acceptance, regardless whether we are happy with our work or not. It has to do with what special talents God gives each one of us to do on earth… Read more »


While a simpler, non-materialistic lifestyle is ideal, we have to realise that Malaysia, like most Asian countries, is a shame-based society. This is unlike the West, which operates primarily on guilt. Shame is external. This is what it looks like: ‘I am ashamed that I am unable to afford a new car while my neighbour is already driving the latest BMW. What will my family and friends think? Damn it, I should go ahead and bribe the government procurement officer so I can settle my business deal quickly.’ Guilt is internal. This is what it looks like: ‘I am envious… Read more »


Simplicity Living or not? It depends on personal experiences that one has gone through in life. In a crisis, a choice has to be made in order to continue walking the journey of life, be it totally self directed or to follow the crowd. Save face is a universal value/belief that we use to protect our weaknesses/lack of or as an excuse to not do something proactively about our own failures/mistakes which we want to hide on the outside. Save face is a paradoxical self-suffering on the inside. In a society where economic prospects are getting dimmer, are we to… Read more »


My two cents: democracy is about checks and balances and openness and transparency. Behaving like a serfs by swearing absolute loyalty to one lord just for the sake of ousting another is the complete antithesis of democracy. That’s feudal propaganda, and that’s what entrenched BN’s power in the first place. A very good real-world example would be Robert Mugabe, also known as Tun Mahathir’s bosom buddy. When he first came on to the scene, Zimbabweans rallied unquestioningly behind him as he fought to bring down what many of them saw as an oppressive British establishment. Unfortunately, when Mugabe eventually the… Read more »

Pala Richie

What is wrong with M’sian? Why most M’sian perceives happiness is expensive? This morning I spoke to a guy by the name of mr. Ang Mo Kow (he is not M’sian), we talked about this happiness thing. He said M’sian should be top in the chart in happiness. Why? Simple, he said your government is chunking tons of jokes lately. These are no domestic jokes but making their way into international jokes. He (mr. Ang Mo Kow) said he has good laugh most of time reading the jokes. He could not understand much why M’sia are not happy? Even with… Read more »


Hello Ong ah or i think i should add a letter ‘g’ in front of your surname ong so that it reads as Gong, because i feel that that pronunciation sounds better, as it fits you nicely. Agree? I think Lim Guan Eng, being a big hearted person will be most happy for you to bash him if that makes you happy because when we help another person to be happy, we are happy too. Ok, from now on, i shall support your action of criticising Lim Guan Eng and Pakatan because that makes you happy. But still, i feel… Read more »


One of the keys to Happiness: Live the Simplicity Life – Be a Downshifter. Obvious Benefits: Less things to spend on or to covet after (to keep up with the Joneses). Less debts to incur. Cut up your credit cards or cancel them. Pay cash. Less financial worries and sleep easy – no debts or installments or commitments. Have some money left to save from spending less. Have more quality time to spend with family and friends since one need not work like a dog for more, more money 24/7. Money is never enough! Feel healthier with less stress or… Read more »


Having worked in market research, I can say with some authority that Gallup polls are a fair and reliable measure of public opinion. Their research is meticulous, and their methodology is second to none. However, that said, public opinion will always be subjective, and people are set apart by cultural differences. The average citizen in Burma will be overjoyed about being able to feed himself twice a day, but the average citizen in Malaysia will not share that same enthusiasm. Likewise, a millionaire in Denmark is more than happy to give up 60% of his income to taxation, but a… Read more »


I totally agree with you, I think most of us feels what your circle of friends feel……the increasingly selfish, feudalistic society and rampant corruption, suck judiciary system, subpar public services etc etc etc……
And for those slightly able Malaysians, they will emigrate mainly because of the kids(at the rate things are going, none bumi kids will have it hard in the very near future)
And for those of us who are not able, will have to just bite the bullet and stay under the radar…..

Ong Eu Soon

The guy who are suppose to be a freedom fighter, a people centric leader, but he chose to betray his own supporters. And we are told that we can not criticise that guy. For this guy is the darling of some stupid sycophants. Read my article on how this guy violated international treaties on forced eviction. See how ignorant this guy is about his role as a PCM. He must has thought that PCM stand for Press Conference Minister!!!! This article may make some people happy, it may make some people angry. If you are so sad and angry… Read more »


Well is it REALLY the causes of the poor that we are championing or are we really caring about our pockets more? Okay, if we really want to talk about the life of the poor, why don’t we fight for a welfare system? How about we champion for the poor to get welfare, to get subsidies, to get scholarship one way or the other for their kids who can achieve? In fact, in Malaysia Today RPK cited that if we set the poverty level at RM1500 a mth, he expected about 80% of the citizens live below the poverty line.… Read more »


I think u are missing the most important point of all and that is people are not complaining the taxes is too high, people are complaining with their current level of income, how do one pay their own taxes when putting food on the table for their family at the end of the day is a problem(I am talking of the common rakyat here and not people like Vincent Tan, YTL etc etc). People are complaining about subsidy cuts and fuel hikes but they are actually frustrated with the way the government are handling their money. Why do the government… Read more »


True, I agree that many of the taxpayer’s money are not duly given back to the rakyat. Like I said, it ends up most probably in overpriced trains, useless submarines etc. So I feel that the key thing that we have to focus on is to stamp out mismanagement and wastage. With proper management of funds, then perhaps we could be more satisfied in paying taxes. What I don’t understand is, a lot of people then will gasp when they hear their fellow Msians paying so much taxes abroad. They will exclaim: “My goodness you pay 35% to 40% tax… Read more »


pavlova, apa lu cakap about the implementation of GST in malasia? You obviously have no care about the poor… The implementation of GST will hit them the most… I bet you live comfortably with your life yeah? Please read Ganesh’s comments above. TQ! By the way, Ong Eu Soon, you proved to be good at bashing Pakatan and Lim Guan Eng only… What else? You should write and post your comments in pro BN’s site, so that you will be noticed and recommended for a Natuk title… What i can see is you are jealous of Lim Guan Eng… Can… Read more »

Ong Eu Soon

A bodek kaki like you is good for nothing, no wonder you can’t be happy! I like to criticise LGE ‘cos that make me happy…


Ah Soon, I really wonder why you like to criticize LGE non stop. While it is good to hear that makes you happy, will it make your future generations happy?

Come on, the most important mission now is to oust BN from power, and rebuild this country.

I understand your situation, why not we enjoy our crab porridge in Khee Xiang restaurant in Nibong Tebal? Forget about LGE and his shortcomings, at least he is much better than KTK.

I support brother Kee on his comments! Cheers bro, Salam Reformasi!


No survey is completely unbiased. That is why there is always a statistical analysis to show how much of a percentage there could be towards bias, so that the reader/ reviewer can make a judgment on how bias it can be. The list shows that Msia is even below countries like Bolivia and the Dominican Republic. Both countries are also classified as “almost bankrupt” nations. They might be poor as a nation, but perhaps they feel that they are protected and well taken care of as a community. Take Bolivia for example. In recent years there has been an influx… Read more »

Dr. Pang HC

All surveys are flawed.. If you ask the UMNOputras of Malaysia, they are very, very happy and will say Malaysia is the best country on earth. If you ask the Chinese Malaysians who struggle to make a living and whose children can’t get a place in local university, they will say Malaysia is as good as Zimbabwe for the white people. If you ask the Indians of the estate, they might say the BN government is okay la cos during buy-elections got lots of free goodies. If you ask the standard Sabahan, they will probably reply anu bah and say… Read more »


Gerakan K, Ong Eu Soon, Pearl, where are you. You all must be very happy until you cannot comment. Miss your comments la.

Ong Eu Soon

You stupid! No wonder you are not happy. I am both anti PR and BN, as well as LGE. So how to be happy in Malaysia. Change PM and change PCM then I guess a lot of us will be happy!


This country is already screwed up sky high!…
…from day 1 that M… took leadership.

As a Baby Boomer, I personally can’t compare with an average Baby Boomer in the developed countries, not even rising Asian Tiger Thailand.

How to be happy? Eat sands?

Andrew I

Happiness is having lots of money. Just ask our world famous tycoons. What, you may ask, do the de la creme of our highest society talk about at their dinner parties? Why, money, of course, and how to get MORE. The best part is when they swagger about how much this and that cost them. Some fail to realize that even the best designer labels can’t save them from…err, lots of things. I really wonder sometimes who is responsible for the negative perceptions we are enjoying abroad. Who needs Anwar when you have “a damaging director of a company with… Read more »


Folks take heart, you have company! Zimbawe comrade-in arms with UMNO and M’s mate still sitting on the throne! Malaysia is just half way there, compared to this African regime so what’s the problem?


The biggest problem is that our GDP per capita is one of the lowest in the world. What people earn in Malaysia is not in proportion to the cost of living in Malaysia. Our ringgit has very little value and cannot keep up with inflation. The purchasing power has become so bad. To make matters worse, our ringgit has little value overseas as well. For the majority of wage earners in Malaysia, going overseas for a holiday to a European destination is a luxury that we can only dream about. In comparison, look at Singapore. People there earn about 5… Read more »


One need not have to be a genius to know that majority of Malaysian are very unhappy because the group of “Happy Malaysians” who are cronies of the government(BN) need not worry if : 1) they are able to put food on the table for their family at the end of the day. 2) they need not worry about paying tolls 3) need not worry about getting stuck in jam for no apparent reason 4) need not worry about their childrens education and futures 5) need not worry about fuel hikes 6) need not worry about quit rent or assessment… Read more »


Ya Pala Richie, even those in tg rambutan cant be happy, how can the rest of us be happy? Yes, we are full of rage, the moment i switch on my pc and read Malaysiakini, my blood boils and almost burst my vessels, how can i be happy? A beautiful mongolian lady with 2 young kids came to claim her commission due to her but was c4 into powder instead… and they (put on trial) 2 masked men since day one of the trial… and Bala was made to revoke his affidavit the next day, and Bala has to be… Read more »


How to be happy in Malaysia when everyday Barang Naik harga? The ‘good’ news supplied by Bernama for local media are all fabricated to perpetuate our syiok sendiri mentality. the government agency are spinning all tales to tell us that the country is heading towards the right direction when the 1malaysia itself is hollow without any specific direction. We have lost faith in MACC, PDRM, judiciary all all govenment agencies as they (appear to be) just following instruction to please the BN authorities. Corruption is all time high but not curtailed. How to be happy when even our local comedians… Read more »

Andrew Aeria

Anil It’s quite erroneous to simply accept these Gallup results at their face-value. All surveys have their limitations and their bias, much of which is built into their research design. Hence, your discussion would have been enhanced if you had also reported about the survey’s research design, who was interviewed and how representative the survey sample was. As it stands, the results don’t tell much and can even skew perceptions. I am no lover of unbridled capitalism in Malaysia but I do see problems when we fall below Burma in the index of happiness. Does Gallup Poll actually want readers… Read more »


For Malaysia to be happy, we need our PM to make sure that we are not fed with BN propaganda on the local media. Most of the news give false hope, and make people even more disappointed and sad.


I think it’s possible the Burmese could be happier than Malaysians – why not? Perhaps the Burmese live in hope? Perhaps for all the grinding awfulness of the junta, perhaps the Burmese are still individually a contented people who associate their day to day problems with a small group of tyrants rather than anything intrinsically wrong with their society as a whole?

After 5 years in Port Dickson, I feel like it’s time for some payback. I’m migrating to Scandinavia to wash pots in a take-away.