Lingnan University survey reveals that Children's Happiness Index in 2015 drops in two consecutive years

30 Mar 2016


According to the results of the 2015 Hong Kong Children’s Happiness Index Survey released by Lingnan University’s Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) today (30 March), the overall Children’s Happiness Index in 2015 dropped noticeably to 6.49 (on a scale of 0 to 10) from 6.74 in 2014.

With funding support from the Hong Kong Early Childhood Development Research Foundation and the assistance of the Public Governance Programme of Lingnan University, the 2015 Children’s Happiness Index survey was conducted following the same methodology as in previous surveys. A total of 9 primary schools and 14 secondary schools (excluding international schools) participated in the survey, involving 1,146 Primary 4 to Secondary 3 students (comprising 428 primary and 718 secondary school students) and 1,509 parents.

Index drop may be associated with socio-political atmosphere and study pressures
This is the second consecutive year the Index showed a decline, hitting the lowest on record since the survey commenced in 2012 when the Index stood at 6.91. Declines are especially noticeable for the two age groups of 8 to 9 and 14 and above. The sharp decline in the Index in 2015 suggests that Hong Kong children are probably indirectly influenced by the tense socio-political atmosphere in recent years, in addition to heightened pressures from studies. Pressures arising from extra-curricular activities did not show marked change.
The survey found that parental relations did not show much change for happy children, but deteriorated significantly (with score dropped from last year’s 3.38 to this year’s 3.04) for unhappy children. The parents of unhappy children tend to be more prone to disciplinary actions and strong reprimand with misbehavior (with a score of 2.72 compared to happy children’s 2.28). Unhappy children’s pressures from school work showed a huge jump (with score increased from last year’s 3.46 to this year’s 3.64). The subjective measures of family happiness showed a rise for happy children (from 4.12 to 4.15) and a decline for unhappy children (from 3.36 to 2.84). Regression analysis showed that the adverse effect of academic pressures on family life and family happiness had gone up, suggesting that parents may have become more anxious about students’ academic performance.
Life education nurtures happier children
One important finding is that “life education” has unambiguous positive effect on children’s happiness. Children who very much agreed their schools offer “life education” command an average happiness of 7.33, which is significantly higher than the average of 3.91 for those who very much disagreed. The happiness index stands at 5.94 for those who agreed to the statement “half-half”. Only 2 out of the 14 secondary schools sampled had 20% or more of their students agreed to the statement that their school offered life education. All the 9 primary schools had 20% or more of their pupils agreed to the statement.


Love and insight most important in determining happiness
Among the four dimensions of mental capital, namely Love, Insight, Fortitude, and Engagement (collectively known as LIFE), regression analysis showed that Love and Insight carry the greatest weight in determining children’s happiness. This is the same as in previous year. Love is based on responses to questions on the child’s willingness to do things for their parents or for people in need. Insight is based on questions relating to the child’s perception of what constitutes success, reflections and learning from mistakes, sense of balance, and a disposition of not pursuing after luxurious living. LIFE scores as well as self-reported happiness are found to generally decline with age for children, suggesting that as children grow into their teens they could be under greater stress.
Caring parents, parents who respect the privacy of children, parents to show a respect for children’s opinions, good spousal relations, and perceived financial well-being of the family all contribute to nurturing Love in children. On the other hand, disciplining children is the single most important factor behind family disharmony.
Good classmates associated with happy schooling
The 2015 survey confirmed a previous finding that while happy schooling is associated with having good teachers and good classmates, with having good classmates being more important.  About 66% of students surveyed think that they have good teachers (same as last year), and about 72% (75% last year) think they have good classmates. Only about 36% of students think their school curriculum is interesting, down from 58% and 39% in the previous two years.  While both happy schooling and happy family are important to children’s happiness, the former seems to be even more important, reflecting the fact that children spend much of their time at school and makes friends with classmates.
Primary 4 shows longest homework hours
Among all school grades, Primary 4 students put in the longest hours on homework, with an average of 151 minutes per day, up from 140 minutes in the previous year. Secondary students generally put in 110 to 126 minutes per day, up from 95 to 115 minutes in the previous year.  Happiness is highest when sleeping time is closest to 9 hours (up from 8 hours). Children short of sleep are the unhappiest.

About the Hong Kong Children’s Happiness Index Survey

Designed and conducted annually by the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) of Lingnan University since 2012, the Children’s Happiness Index Survey tracked and measured the level of happiness of children in Hong Kong on a scale of 0 to 10. The Survey in 2015 marks the fourth consecutive year the survey has been conducted.
The survey was conducted with financial support from the Hong Kong Early Childhood Development Research Foundation and assistance of the Public Governance Programme of Lingnan University. CPPS would like to express its gratitude for the Foundation, the Programme as well as all participating schools for their support.

About the Centre for Public Policy Studies of Lingnan University
The Centre for Public Policy Studies of Lingnan University was established in 1994. Apart from self-initiated studies, the Centre offers support on public policy research to Lingnan’s researchers and conducts commissioned studies on various aspects of public policy.

Please click here to download the full report of "Hong Kong Children Happiness Index Survey 2015".