The Happiness Project

Almost everyone is searching for some from happiness.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Almost everyone is searching for some from happiness. It can be an elusive quest, depending on what we're looking for. embarked on The Happiness Project a year ago with Power Your Happy - a highly read series of stories to help women live, play, love and work in better, smarter - and yes happier - ways. Our Happiness Survey is a culmination of The Happiness Project, where modern women tell us what's central to their happiness, and what's not.


More than just money and career successes, family and friends play a significant part in our happiness.

We’re generally a blissful bunch, so say half of the women in Her World’s Happiness Survey 2019 – and the rest are seemingly contented.

The best indicators of happiness are career success, good health and financial security, but women seek more to find fulfilment, freedom and purpose at different stages of their lives.

In the last quarter of 2019, Her World – in collaboration with Centre For Mindfulness Singapore (CFMS) – put together Her World’s Happiness Survey 2019, and cobbled the answers from 1,241 women from different age groups to find out what makes them happy – and what does not.

The CFMS, which was established in 2015, is a one-stop centre for mindfulness training, education and practice.

Indeed, women’s options are vast today compared to a generation or two before. Women everywhere are taking strides in their careers and making a mark in the workforce. While there’s no formula to happiness, we make bold, meaningful changes to our work, attitudes, surroundings and relationships, to set us on course for a happier life the way we know how.

Even though it can be an elusive path, a wonderful thing happens as we grow older into our 50s and 60s. As the survey results show, we become happier. Just as life is finite, we take stock of our blessings and all that we have experienced.

Freedom gives us options

For some, happiness isn’t always about getting richer. The financially comfortable lot of 8.7 per cent who make over $10,000 do not feel the need to bump up their wealth to be happier.

It comes as no surprise that we hit a higher index for happiness as our coffers grow: Those who earn more than $10,000 a month are the happiest lot (66.7 per cent), followed by those making between $5,000 and $10,000 a month.

While the almighty dollar can’t buy happiness, it gives us the freedom and options to make decisions where money isn’t the only deciding factor. That freedom affords us guilty pleasures such as holidays. For instance, 84 per cent of respondents who earn over $10,000 a month splash out on annual vacations (spending at least $5,000 a year), while 55 per cent who make up to $5,000 a month spend within their income bracket on annual trips. Career and leisure are the main focus for young women in the 21-30 age group.

Senior sales manager Susan Leng, 29, says: “I work hard to save for two week-long  holidays a year. I feel more refreshed and happier after that.” Even though she clocks 50 hours a week, she says she’s happy at work – like 41.8 per cent of respondents – while 31.6 per cent are “neutral” or seemingly contented in their careers.

Many also invest in their professional development to scale the ladder in a competitive economy like Singapore’s. Last year, more than half of the respondents upgraded their skills or learnt something new.

Good relationships make us happier

Meaningful relationships are the greatest indicators of happiness, perhaps more than money and career. Women who are married are the happiest lot, forming 57.5 per cent of respondents.

When it comes to family, mummies are truly a blissful set. Interestingly, 66.7 per cent with three to four children found life to be most meaningful, compared to those with up to two children or more than five children.

As mother-of-three Meredith Chu, 39, an admin manager, puts it: “My kids ‘complete’ me. Their laughter or a hug makes a bad day good, and they give me a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in life.”

People to count on

And when the going gets tough, our “troops” play a significant part in our well-being. That is, having a friend or family member whom you can confide in, providing moral support.

While six per cent of respondents say they have no support network, 41 per cent have more than four friends whom they can turn to for help first before approaching their siblings and parents, in difficult times.

Her World Happiness Survey 2019

In collaboration with Centre For Mindfulness Singapore. 

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Who are 61 years and above say they are happy, making them the happiest lot. In second place: folks in the 51-60 age group at 60.4%.
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Who earn over $10,000 a month are happy, putting them in the lead, followed by those in the $5,000-$10,000 bracket.
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The happiest group of people are those with three to four children.
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Slightly more than 50% of respondents have upgraded or learnt new skills in the past year.
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4 out of 5 people have friends whom they can turn to for help. Siblings and parents came in second.

Analysis by Dr Sunita Rai of CFMS. Results based on 1,241 valid female responses.


We assume that the young and carefree are the happiest, but it’s not always the case. By Cheong Wen Xuan, 23 Millennials have long been mocked for being narcissistic, entitled and lazy. As if those labels aren’t enough, they struggle with a real problem: being unhappy (single) workhorses.

More in their mid to late 20s have been putting their careers before marriage, as population censuses of 2018 and 2015 have shown. Millennials live in an increasingly competitive economy. A bachelor’s degree is no longer enough. Master’s degrees and postgraduate certifications have become the norm.

I know how it’s like for my younger peers under 20 – the age group that forms the biggest bulk of unhappy folks at 31 per cent, who rate wealth as top priority – while those like myself, who’re between 21 and 30 years old, are scowling behind in second place at 13.2 per cent in Her World’s Happiness Survey 2019.

Then, as a university student, I spent more afternoons with my tutors than socialising. I was a member of the lonely, paper-chasing, pre-career adult club.

Now, as the oldest millennials turn 40, thus qualifying for Eldershield, the youngest of the lot at 23 will soon make way for Gen Z in the workforce.

As goal-oriented Singaporeans, some things never change. We’ll continue to conquer one thing after another in the form of acronyms we’ve grown so familiar with even before we hit puberty, from PSLE, GCE O Levels, GCE A Levels, DIP to BA… The list goes on.

Even as I hurdled my way towards becoming a working adult, a dreamy property ad depicting a happy family triggers three letters in my mind – BTO (builtto-order) flat.

Will I be rich enough to afford one at 35, in case I wind up single and miserable?

Okay, maybe not rich, but with enough in the bank to put a down payment that’s equivalent to years’ worth of exotic annual vacations?

As it is, a large number of 20-somethings are dependants living with their Gen X and Baby Boomer ”pa” and ”ma”. It’s hard not to feel envious scrolling through your Instagram feed and seeing young newlyweds posing happily in their (own) homes. This makes us – the singletons – feel as if we’ve lost a big chunk in the game of pursuit.

And the pursuit of higher education – get broke first to get rich later – is out of the question for some.

While singlehood seems to disrupt the plan of what’s next, life isn’t all about that, and romance isn’t the only shape that love takes. Don’t compare. Think friends, family, selflove and more.

But if being self- partnered is the root of our unhappiness, step out and live up to our digitally savvy rep to scroll, swipe and tap to find love – and expand our social circle.