Despite years of rapid economic growth and rising incomes, Chinese aren’t feeling so great about themselves. And Chinese from the countryside are feeling even worse. That’s revealed by a new survey focusing on global well-being, released yesterday for the first time by polling agency Gallup and Healthways (HWAY) in Franklin, Tenn.
The Global Well-Being Index is designed as an alternative to traditional objective measures, such as GDP, life expectancy, and population size, the report explains. Instead, the index, which canvassed 133,000 people in 135 countries and regions, serves as “a global barometer of individuals’ perceptions of their well-being.” It’s important because people with higher well-being are “healthier, more productive, and more resilient in the face of challenges such as unemployment,” the report notes.
To find out just how people feel, the survey looked at five categories of perceived well-being, including financial and physical well-being, but also social well-being (“having supportive relationships and love in your life”), community well-being (“liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community”), and purpose well-being (“liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals”).
So where did the Chinese reveal themselves as particularly glum? On purpose, or feeling motivated every day, 35 percent of Chinese characterized their well-being as low, and 56 percent said it was moderate, while just 9 percent rated it as high. That compared with 13 percent of respondents in Asia who said they had high well-being, and twice as many, or 18 percent, globally.
On social and community well-being, the Chinese also lagged the rest of Asia and the world. And among rural Chinese, far fewer people expressed high satisfaction with their communities than urban Chinese— just 14 percent for those in the countryside, compared to 23 percent in cities. “With better access to education, entertainment, and employment opportunities, it’s not surprising that urban Chinese are more likely to be satisfied with their communities,” the reports says.
That split within China shows up when it comes to financial security, as well. Overall, the Chinese scored highly (Chinese overall also scored well in physical well-being), with 25 percent expressing high financial well-being, the same as the regional and global average. Yet the rate of those with low financial well-being among rural Chinese was twice that of those in Chinese cities, “speaking to China’s ongoing struggle with income inequality that has resulted from rapid growth,” according to the report.