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Which Country Is Ranked as Asia’s Happiest?

Image Credit: NUS
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According to the recently released 2024 World Happiness Report – yes, that’s a thing – Asia’s happiest country is an ASEAN member.

You may not be especially surprised to learn that Singapore is the happiest country in Asia for the second year in a row, according to the 2024 World Happiness Report released recently, as reported by CNBC, among others.

Overall, the city-state ranked 30 out of the 143 places surveyed for the study. Topping the list this year is Finland (for the seventh time), followed closely by Denmark and Iceland.

In Finland, they may not be warm, but they sure are happy | Image Credit: EuroNews

According to Frank Martela, a Finnish philosopher and psychology researcher, Finnish people are happy because they have a strong sense of community and relatedness, do good deeds for other people, and find a clear purpose for themselves.

The overview and comprehensive analysis of the ranked countries is well worth a read, and can be found in its entirety HERE.

In Asia, Malaysia was ranked 8th, behind higher-ranked neighbours Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Interestingly, all of the top 10-ranked countries in Asia are either in ASEAN or East Asia, with five falling in each geographic camp. (China, of course, spans more than just East Asia, but the overwhelming majority of its population is in the east.)

Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh are among Asia’s least happy countries, according to the report.

India, now the world’s most populous nation, came in 126th out of 143 places surveyed.

The Nordic countries (comprising the sovereign states of Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland) dominated the top 10, and accounted for four of the top five rankings. Nearby nations such as the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Luxembourg also all landed in the top 10.

Australia and New Zealand both did quite well, ranking 10th and 11th worldwide, respectively. Canada was 15th. The United Kingdom came in 20th, while the United States ranked 23rd.

With Myanmar locked in a state of civil war since 2021, the country’s poor happiness ranking is understandable | Image Credit: The New York Times

The top 10 happiness rankings in Asia

  1. Singapore
  2. Taiwan
  3. Japan
  4. South Korea
  5. Philippines
  6. Vietnam
  7. Thailand
  8. Malaysia
  9. China
  10. Mongolia

The World Happiness Report is a joint effort from some of the world’s leading researchers and wellbeing scientists. The happiness ranking in this study is supported by data from the Gallup World Poll which measures individuals’ average life evaluations, taken over three years from 2021 to 2023.


Experts also analysed data in six key factors: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, generosity, and perception of corruption. Their research into these areas provided deeper insight and potential explanations for the subjective quality of life ratings people gave.

The data gathered for the six factors came from organizations like the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Gallup World Poll.

Video courtesy of World Happiness Report via YouTube

In Southeast Asia, the rankings were as follows (Brunei was apparently not assessed for the ranking):

  1. Singapore (30th worldwide)
  2. Philippines (53rd)
  3. Vietnam (54th)
  4. Thailand (58th)
  5. Malaysia (59th)
  6. Indonesia (80th)
  7. Laos (94th)
  8. Myanmar (118th)
  9. Cambodia (119th)

Considering that the methodology takes both objective data and subjective evaluations from residents into account, these rankings are not particularly welcome for Malaysia, either regionally or worldwide. The rankings are based on the evaluations given by residents, so it would seem that Malaysia has rather considerable room for improvement in the opinion of its citizens.

Arguably the most impressive ranking belongs to the Philippines, a sprawling archipelago with over 115 million people (larger countries tend to rank more poorly) and widespread poverty. And yet, when it comes to happiness with their lives, they’re behind only Singapore regionally, and very near the top third globally.


Malaysia’s southern neighbour achieved notably high rankings on a number of the components in the World Happiness Report. It’s hardly a surprise as Singapore routinely excels in regional and even global rankings. So overall, why wasn’t it ranked higher than 30th place?

“Singapore did very well in terms of GDP per capita, one of the highest rankings in our dataset,” Shun Wang, co-author and editor of the 2024 World Happiness Report told CNBC Make It.

“That means Singapore’s government is really clean and their people really have a very low perception of corruption … even lower, you know, than Denmark or Norway,” Wang added. (Overall, Denmark and Norway ranked 2nd and 7th, respectively, on the 2024 report.)

Additionally, Singapore “does particularly well on generating healthy life expectancy, so long lives and healthy lives,” according to Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Director of the Wellbeing Research Centre at Oxford University and editor of the 2024 World Happiness Report.

Singapore’s Marina Bay district and CBD combine for a striking skyline | Image Credit: Mustsharenews

Despite this, Singapore ranks lower in terms of its perceived social support, freedom to make life choices, and generosity (or the country’s attitude towards giving). We’d imagine the extremely high cost of living factors in on some level with regard to residents’ overall happiness, as well.


“Singapore is punching below its weight,” said De Neve. “Given all the objective indicators about Singapore, you’d expect Singapore to be in the top 20 of the World Happiness Report. In fact, the country fell five spots in 2024, having ranked in 25th place last year.

“I would love to challenge the Singaporean government and the people of Singapore to find ways to leverage the extraordinary city-state that they’ve created into ways of improving quality of life as people experience it,” De Neve said.

The top 40 countries ranked worldwide are shown below. (Malaysia ranked 59th, and is shown separately.) For the full report and comprehensive details, click HERE.

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