‘In what universe?’: How some Filipinos reacted to Philippines’ happiness ranking in Southeast Asia

March 23, 2022 - 6:53 PM
People wearing face mask as protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) visit Manila Zoo, which serves as vaccination site, in Manila, Philippines, January 19, 2022. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David)

Some Filipinos online have mixed reactions to the Philippines’ ranking as the second happiest country in Southeast Asia.

This ranking was according to the 2022 World Happiness Report that was released by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network on March 18.

In the list for the region, Singapore topped all its neighbors with an impressive 7.821 score.

The Philippines placed second with a score of 5.904.

The rest of the rankings in the Southeast Asian nations are as follows:

  • Thailand (61st)
  • Malaysia (70th)
  • Vietnam (77th)
  • Indonesia (87th)
  • Laos (95th)
  • Cambodia (114th)
  • Myanmar (126th)

Brunei is the only Southeast Asian country left out in the report.

This list is part of the report’s happiness index called “Ranking of Happiness” from 2019 to 2021 which covered 146 countries.

In the global ranking, the Philippines is ranked 60th.

Finland, a first-world nation, received the highest score of 7.821.

The lowest score of 2.404 was given to Afghanistan.

Screenshot of the happiest countries according to the World Happiness Report 2022
Screenshot of the Philippines’ rank according to the World Happiness Report 2022


The following factors or key variables were used to evaluate each country’s “happiness”:

  • Perceptions of corruption
  • Generosity
  • Freedom to make life choices
  • Healthy life expectancy
  • Social support
  • GDP per capita

Another variable called “dystopia” with a value of 1.83 was also computed in the evaluation.

Dystopia refers to the “hypothetical country” that served as a benchmark for the six other factors.

“We use Dystopia as a benchmark against which to compare contributions from each of the six factors. The choice of Dystopia as a benchmark permits every real country to have a positive (or at least zero) contribution from each of the six factors,” the report reads.

How social media reacted

When this study was reported online, it soon gathered different reactions from social media users.

Some Filipinos share the same sentiment that the Philippines is a “happy” country amid the many problems its citizens are facing, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

They pointed out that Filipinos are optimistic, kind and friendly by nature.

“By nature, Filipinos are kind friendly caring accommodating they like to share their foods, especially to visitors,” one Facebook user said.

“So true. We find reasons to laugh in anything,” another Facebook user commented.

Others, however, disagree with the country’s happiness score, saying they could not feel the happiness. They questioned its credibility, while some called it a “scam” and “fake.”

“Saang branch ng Pilipinas to?” a Twitter user asked.

“In what universe?” an online user asked.

“Who did they survey?? The ones with generational wealth?” another asked. 

Other Filipinos countered the report’s findings by citing prevailing problems and issues.

“Also Philippines: Increased number of mental health problems and suicide rates due to stigma, intergenerational trauma, and toxic positivity, disguised as resiliency,” one Facebook  user said.

“I disagree, with the high cost of living and so on. Minimum wage of workers were so low…It makes ordinary people and low income sad,” another user commented.

One user quipped about the country’s neighbors being sadder.

“The rest of Southeast Asia must be very sad,” the user said.

The World Happiness Report, which is in its 10th year, gauges “how people evaluate their own lives in more than 150 countries worldwide.”

It aims to provide hope to the people during trying times, especially amid the still ongoing pandemic.

“As we battle the ills of disease and war, it is essential to remember the universal desire for happiness and the capacity of individuals to rally to each other’s support in times of great need,” the report said.