This year all nationalities are happier, but Emiratis continue to be the happiest in the UAE - by some margin. 75% (up from 47.6% last year) of the local population responding to our survey describe themselves not just as happy, but 'Very Happy'. A further 8% of Emiratis say they are "Happy".
In terms of respondents who claim to be either Very Happy or Happy, Filipinos and Brits lost the top slots this year, but remain two very happy nationalities. Last year, 82.6% of Britons claimed to be either Very Happy or Happy, a figure actually rising to 87% this year. Equally, last year, 81% of Filipinos said they were Very Happy or Happy, a figure rising to an all time high of 92% this year. However both nationalities were beaten in the Happiness stakes by Sri Lankans, Australians and the Lebanese, with no respondents from these three countries claiming to be unhappy, to any degree.
One of the difficulties of the Happiness Survey is that there are so many interlinkages that you cannot really pinpoint a single reason for happiness. There is a relationship for example between nationality and how much you earn, where you live, and whether you have family with you. All of these have an impact on how you feel.
For example, income. 71% of respondents who earn between 7,001 AED and 12,000 AED describe themselves as either happy or very happy, a figure that jumps sharply to 100% of respondents who earn over 100,000 AED a month. Whatever the conventional wisdom, the stats keep telling us that money can buy you happiness.
The survey does note a wobble in the middle income groups. We believe this is because while this group is earning more, it has also taken on more costs. Those between 25 and 45 are the most likely to have more children, living in more expensive accommodation.
Last year's survey also showed that, with age, we become happier. In the UAE, at least, in 2019, this is one statistical correlation that has broken down. According to our survey, if you want to be happy, don't get older! While our survey shows we get paid more with age, the Happiness Survey suggests no longer by enough to keep up with obligations. For happiness it is not income that matters, but disposable income.
Given the Emirates has an increasing focus on youth, the 2019 results can be seen as positive. The segment below 18 years of age is the most likely to be very happy, while the 18-24 segment is the only one with no respondents who are unhappy to any degree. They are also the second most likely to be Very Happy. The survey does suggest however that if the UAE wants to keep expats with families, then further declines in expat allowances will be increasingly counter productive.
Last year we noted a weakening in the correlation between those who had their families with them and happiness, and those who were here by themselves. This year 88% of respondents whose children live in the UAE say they are happy (up from 80.89% last year). This compares to 86% of respondents saying they are happy without children in the UAE (compared to 79.66% last year). Marginal, but then if you dig a little deeper, there is greater contrast. There is a 4% difference between families with children with those who do not when it comes to being Very Happy - 30% to 26%.
In 2014 by comparison, 84.26% of respondents with children in their house said they were happy - 24% very happy, and 60.26% just happy.
Happiness quotients between male and female respondents remain remarkably aligned, although the men edge it this year, by 1%, in being more likely to describe themselves as Very Happy. They are also more likely to say they are Very Unhappy - accounting for 2% of male respondents to 0% female.
It's a similar story with home ownership. Home owners are more likely to say they are Very Happy - by a significant 3% than those who rent. However, they are also more likely to say they are Very unhappy - accounting for 2% of home owners, and 0% of renters.
Owning your own home gives you a great sense of belonging and security, but can be a source of stress, especially in a market where house prices have been moving downwards making an exit more difficult.
Finally, where you live impacts how you feel. Abu Dhabi continues to edge Dubai as a happy place with 31% of its respondents saying they are very happy, compared to 29% from Dubai. Additionally, 13% of respondents from Dubai say they are Not Happy or Very Unhappy, compared to 7% from Abu Dhabi. The surprise story this year however is Sharjah, with a significant increase in the numbers of respondents claiming to be Very Happy (38%) or Happy (55%). Only 7% of respondents from the Emirate told us they are Not Happy. Way to go Sharjah!
So, overall a very similar story to last year - but not totally the same. UAE residents that are Emirati, home owners, with a family, and well off are still the most likely to be happy. However homeowners are clearly more concerned than before, and older residents less comfortable than they once were. There is a clear sense that times are a changing in the UAE, and the 2020s is shaping up to be a very different decade for the United Arab Emirates.
Next: The UAE and Children
Happiness 2019 Index
Happiness Rises Across the UAE
Why You Choose to Live in the UAE
Your Biggest Worries Living in the UAE
Who is the Happiest in the UAE?
The UAE and Kids, a Great Mix
Property Ownership - Happiness and Stress
Happiness and Money in 2019
Happiness and Employment in 2019
Happiness and the Expo Effect