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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: January 31, 2011 NO. 6 FEBRUARY 10, 2011
Are You Happy?
Nationwide survey shows almost 45 percent of Chinese people are happy


Almost 45 percent of Chinese people are happy, according to the 2010 Survey of Economic Lifestyles conducted by China Central Television (CCTV). Results of the national survey were released on January 12, and only about 11 percent of those surveyed said they were unhappy. Results are based on data from more than 80,000 respondents.

China Economic Weekly analyzed the results:

Wide coverage

Using the same sampling method as the China economic census conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the survey covered 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, 104 cities and 300 counties.

The fact that individuals with an annual family income below 50,000 yuan ($7,580) accounted for 85 percent of respondents reflected that the survey was conducted mainly among ordinary people.

"In terms of statistics, the coverage and the structure of respondents, the survey represents the basic situation of China's ordinary people," said Yao Jingyuan, the NBS's chief economist.

Wealth and happiness

According to the survey, income may be a double-edged sword. At lower income levels, more income corresponds to greater happiness. However, at higher income levels this relationship breaks down.

The positive effect of income on happiness is obvious in families with income less than 20,000 yuan ($3,000) per year, which represents about half of all families in China. For high-income families, however, the relationship of income to happiness is less clear. For example, the percentages of "very happy" and "very unhappy" people in high-income families are both higher than the average.

The survey shows people's perception of happiness is closely related with their anticipated income. Among those who anticipated an increase in income, 61 percent were happy and 9 percent were unhappy. In contrast, only 29 percent of those expecting a decrease in income were happy, while an additional 29 percent of this group were unhappy.

Money isn't everything

The survey also shows that health, age and education have big effects on people's perception of happiness.

People over 60 years of age generally have a strong sense of happiness, suggesting older people have learned how to enjoy life. Their happiness is also due to fewer material demands as well as a sense of optimism. Since they have more self-knowledge, they can face problems better and be more tolerant.

Middle-aged people—those from 36 to 59 years old—have an average level of happiness. Their happiness mainly comes from their accomplishments in life while their unhappiness mainly comes from the burdens of work and family.

Young people—from 18 to 36 years old—have the lowest level of happiness. This is directly related to their low income level, difficulty finding suitable employment and the huge gap between their expected and actual income.

The results of similar surveys from 2006 to 2009 show that education increases people's happiness. Among people who are "very unhappy," people with little education account for the highest percentage, while those with a high educational level account for the lowest percentage.

The survey also shows the importance of health to happiness. Sixty percent of happy people counted health as the main factor in determining happiness. This result suggests a connection to China's current health care system. In the current system, sick individuals must often deal with enormous medical bills on top of health problems, and this places a premium on remaining healthy in China.

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