Societal Insights

Are Singaporeans Really Happy? Part I: Optimism & Relationships

Written on:
December 19, 2017
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The corner office with a panoramic view of Marina Bay. A two week ski holiday in the Swiss Alps. 450K followers on social media. As a culture that glorifies the 5K diamond engagements and the latest model of a gadget named after a fruit, it’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of a glamorous lifestyle. We attach the external validation that comes with it to our self worth and it increases the happiness we gain from these items and experiences.

But how satisfied are these actually making us? How much do we know about how satisfied our friends and family are?

In a nationally representative survey conducted by Milieu with 240 respondents, we find out more about how satisfied our community really is and how that changes over time, across people of different socio-economic standings.

Overall, Singaporeans rated an average of 6.34 on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 represents their worst possible life and 10 represents their best possible life. Women rank a little higher at 6.45 whereas men are less satisfied at an average score of 6.22.

It is a generally accepted theory that older people are generally more satisfied with their lives but what’s surprising is the gap in satisfaction levels for Singaporeans. Singaporeans aged 45+ rated their lives at 6.84 compared to those below 45 who rated their satisfaction at 6.12. This could be due to elderly gaining more wisdom and embracing the happiness that comes with age.


Singaporeans are mostly optimistic about the future, with most respondents seeing themselves living a better life in five years’ time. Although women tend to perceive their lives higher than the national average, men are actually more optimistic than women. For men, they perceive a 61% increase in quality of life. This is contrasted with a 28% increase for women and a 39% increase in the national average.

Even though 18 - 29 year olds may be experiencing the lowest life satisfaction at 6.08 currently, they are the most optimistic group, expecting a 13% increase in standard of life in the future which could reflect the younger generation’s strong desire to climb the social ladder and improve their standard of living.


When we take a look at which aspects of life brings Singaporeans the most satisfaction; family, financial freedom and career are the top three factors that bring them happiness. However, career and finances could be the defining aspects of what makes Singaporeans happy as financial difficulties, career dissatisfaction are the top two most highly reported factors that bring them unhappiness.

Family is the most important factor for life satisfaction among Singaporeans, with an overall 46% reporting that they gain the most satisfaction from their family life.

Unsurprisingly, among parents, 68% reported that family life gave them the most satisfaction versus non-parents at 26%. Although research has now claimed that it’s not so much the presence of children in your family but the relationships with you have with your children that makes you happy.

Close knit friend groups? Women tend to appreciate those more. Women gain 41% more satisfaction from their friends as compared to men while single people report 81% more satisfaction from friendships than attached people.

If you’re not having kids soon, being romantically attached might be the simplest way to improve your life satisfaction. People who are attached report a higher life satisfaction (15%) than single people. However, this gap closes with age where the difference in satisfaction levels between single and attached respondents aged 45+ drops by 27% which is testament to how older people tend to be more satisfied with life regardless of their circumstance.

Although there isn’t an ideal way to accurately measure happiness, survey results can give us a good indication of how satisfied Singaporeans really are. Older Singaporeans tend to be happier where men are surprisingly the most optimistic demographic. Relationships also play a large part in determining how happy Singaporeans are but again that diminishes with age as older people tend to be more satisfied.

Ever wondered if rich people are really happier than the poor? Or how much happier your boss is? In the next part of our life satisfaction series, we explore how wealth affects happiness and the theory that all middle aged people are miserable.

Stay tuned for the next part of our life satisfaction series, or subscribe to our mailing list below!

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