Feelings of well-being and outlook on life

Happiness
UNICEF/HQ99-0884/ ROGER LEMOYNE
A father and his son on their houseboat in the Mekong Delta, Viet Nam.

Overall, children and adolescents from the East Asia and Pacific region describe themselves as happy most of the time (52%) or sometimes (47%). Younger respondents and urban dwellers are among the happiest. Contact with family and friends and playing are the main sources of happiness, particularly for males and younger children. Getting good grades at school is cited as a reason for feeling happy by at least one third of respondents in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore and Viet Nam.

However, the main differences are between the countries. Most respondents in Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and East Timor expressed some reservations; high numbers of respondents who said they are "sometimes" happy were prevalent in the Republic of Korea. In Cambodia (5%) and Papua New Guinea (7%) respondents say they are never/almost never happy.

Click below to view the responses to the questions related to this issue:

• I feel happy… (total) [view]
• I feel happy… (by demographic) [view]
• I feel happy most of the time… (by country of 52% total) [view]
• I feel happy when… (total) [view]
• I feel happy when… (by demographic) [view]
• I feel happy when… (by country) [view]

 

Sadness

In all countries, feeling sad is usually the result of punishment or being scolded. Country-specific reasons include doing badly at school (Cambodia, China, Macau, Mongolia, Singapore and Viet Nam), being left alone (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Papua New Guinea and Philippines) and death (Australia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea.)

Click below to view the responses to the questions related to this issue:

• I feel sad when… (total) [view]
• I feel sad when… (by country) [view]

 

Attitudes about self and others
UNICEF/HQ92-2141/ROGER LEMOYNE
A boy in Maomao Brook village, China.

Respect for elders is the only attitude that enjoys a broad consensus among children, with respect for authority figures clearly lower. Respondents expressed reservations about their self esteem and happiness, although only a small minority expressed negative feelings in those areas. There are some clear signs of individualism and materialism, with money as the most important thing for 31 per cent. The level of individualism was lower in China, East Timor and Mongolia.

Respondents from the older age group (14-17 years old) expressed a lower level of happiness and self satisfaction and a slightly higher freedom in self expression. The combination of respect (for elders and authority figures) and materialism is more pronounced in rural areas. There are no clear gender differences.

Happiness and self esteem were:

  • high in Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam
  • low to very low in Cambodia, China, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea
  • high in Australia and linked with a sense of freedom to express their feelings

The combination of respect for elders and authority figures and a level of materialism is high in Lao PDR, Myanmar and East Timor; similar in the Philippines excluding interest in money; similar in Indonesia without respect for authority figures and with a great emphasis on money; and low in Macau and particularly Hong Kong where children have a very low level of respect for both elders and authority figures.

Attitudes expressed by children and adolescents in the Republic of Korea are different from the rest of the region. Level of respect for elders and authority figures is very low. However, traditions do not seem to be replaced by new values or centres of interest.

Click below to view the responses to the questions related to this issue:

• Attitudes to self and others (by demographic) [view]
• Attitudes to self and others (by country A-L) [view]
• Attitudes to self and others (by country M-Z) [view]

 

Feelings of security in the place of residence

There is a general feeling of safety during the day time and some concern at night, especially in urban areas, in Australia, Republic of Korea, PNG and Cambodia.

Click below to view the responses to the questions related to this issue:

• During the day I feel safe in my city/community/neighborhood... (total) [view]
• During the day I feel safe in my city/community/neighborhood... (by demographic) [view]
• At night I feel safe in my city/community/neighborhood... (total) [view]
• At night I feel safe in my city/community/neighborhood... (by demographic) [view]
• I feel safe in my city/community/neighborhood... (by country) [view]

This information is provided as a contribution to discussion on important issues affecting children. UNICEF Regional offices conducted the polls, analysis and interpretations of the findings. For more information, please contact the regional poll contact person directly.

About the survey
Feelings of well-being and outlook on life
Children and their rights
Information, knowledge and life skills
Threats to the well-being of children
Participation, communication and decision-making
Values, aspirations and expectations