S. Korea ranks 7th from bottom in happiness among OECD member states

Posted on : 2023-02-27 17:08 KST Modified on : 2023-02-27 17:08 KST
Only 32.9% of Koreans said they generally trust others
(Getty Images Bank)
(Getty Images Bank)

South Korea holds the seventh-lowest level of happiness out of all the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In addition, the percentage of people who say they have no one to turn to in times of need was the fourth highest among OECD countries.

According to the World Happiness Report, quoted in the recently released Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs’ “Preliminary Study of the Social Trends Monitoring,” in 2021, South Koreans’ happiness level was 6.11 out of 10, the seventh lowest among the 38 countries in the OECD.

The six countries that had lower happiness scores than South Korea were Greece (6.10), Japan (6.09), Mexico (5.99), Poland (5.98), Colombia (5.29) and Türkiye (4.37). Finland took first place as the “happiest” country in the OECD, with 7.79 points, and was followed by Denmark (7.70) and Israel (7.58).

The World Happiness Report is produced annually by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an advisory organization to the United Nations, by asking 1,000 people in each country to rate their satisfaction with their lives on a scale of 0 to 10. South Koreans’ happiness score increased from 6.12 in 2010 to 6.95 in 2011, and then remained in the low 5s until 2020 before increasing slightly to 6 in 2021.

The World Happiness Report also stated that the percentage of socially isolated people in South Korea was 18.9% in 2021, one of the highest figures among the OECD countries. Social isolation was only found to be greater in Türkiye (26.4%), Mexico (22.1%), and Colombia (20.7%). The report named Iceland as the least socially isolated country (2.0%).

The social isolation rate indicates the percentage of people who answered “no” to the question, “Do you have friends or family you can turn to for help in times of need?” The percentage of socially isolated South Koreans hovered around 19%-22% for around a decade (starting in 2010), before spiking to 26.2% in 2014 following the Sewol ferry disaster.

South Koreans also have lower levels of trust in people, government, and media compared to other countries.

According to the results of the seventh edition of the World Values Survey (2017-2022), 32.9% of South Korean respondents answered “yes” when asked if they generally trust people. That means 7 out of 10 people do not trust others.

When the same question was asked in New Zealand and the Netherlands, more than half said yes (New Zealand: 56.6%, the Netherlands: 55.4%). South Koreans’ trust in the executive branch (12.9%), parliament (14.2%), and the media (13.7%) is also very low compared to other developed countries.

By Kwon Ji-dam, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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