As you may recall from our earlier articles, our philosophy at Join the Dots is that consumer trends are a result of our deep desire to satisfy basic human drivers and in particular, the need to increase happiness. Our Singapore and UK Culture & Trends teams, along with our global network of local trend-spotters, have worked closely over the last year to develop and identify the trends and drivers that are best suited to understanding consumer needs and behaviours not just in Western markets, but around the world. We know that the pursuit of happiness is a universal human trait that crosses all nations and cultures, yet it differs in the ways happiness is attained and fulfilled.

Looking back to last year, our five happiness drivers were: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Achievements, Relationships and Meaning. Along the way, we sought to update the model to reflect a broader spectrum of what drives happiness, and to take into account the way different societies and cultures around the world view and create happiness. Subtle differences in happiness between societies require cultural contextualisation¹, so by taking this into account, we have relaunched our happiness drivers to suit a broader international market:


We have expanded the happiness spectrum to include Health and Security in order to capture a deeper insight of what drives happiness. Much of our previous work was grounded on Seligman’s positive psychology theories, and we have expanded on his ideas to succinctly cover aspects of happiness that his model does not. We believe that the addition of ‘Health’ and ‘Security’ are important drivers of happiness for humans across the world.



Researchers have long been interested in the link between positive emotions and good health, and research has shown that there is a direct relation between subjective well-being and health. Exercise can improve mental well-being, and there is a growing body of evidence to show that subjective well-being is related to better self-reported health, longevity, and reduced pain.² Similarly, the key to a healthier life can be shaped by positive life circumstances, such as emotional vitality, optimism, and having a supportive network of relationships.³ Looking beyond Seligman’s analysis, an academic study conducted in Malaysia in 2014 revealed that health was the fifth highest driver that made people happy.4

How does it manifest today? In today’s challenging climate, where people are living maxed-out lives, consumers are looking to refocus on what matters most. From tainted food scandals, to alarming information of increasing poor health and rising rates of diseases, consumers are pausing and redefining what health means and how it contributes to their lives. With technology innovations allowing consumers to create, share, and get a deeply intimate view of their bodies and health, consumers want to know more about their bodies, and to be in control of aspects which impact their overall well-being and happiness. This creates opportunities for brands to reach out to consumers and deliver this reimagined picture of health. This is not just what people put into their bodies, but also what they are physically doing to their bodies. The definition of ‘healthy’ is changing but the importance of health, as a driver to happiness, is fundamental.



At the same time, the same study in Malaysia also revealed that having a sense of security is important in contributing to overall well-being and happiness. Security is the factor at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and often ignored by many researchers in developed markets. However, when basic security is challenged in some way, it can have a major impact on well-being. Security does not pertain only to the physical, but encompasses everything from living in a peaceful environment, to political freedom, financial security, and internal comfort too. This corroborates a study conducted in Australia that investigated the ‘golden triangle’ of happiness, where good relationships, financial security, and a sense of purpose were key to being happy.5

In Europe, aspects of security are beginning to be an issue as a wave of migration is displacing millions of citizens.6 In developed Asian markets like Singapore, security plays a huge part in the nation’s psychology – there’s always a sense of insecurity and a survival need that drives the nation’s growth and success. Stability is highly sought after today in this climate of fearing terrorism, displacement, and economic uncertainties. In a campaign called ‘Smile Singapore 2015’, Singaporeans listed peace and security as two of the main factors they deeply appreciate in the country that gives them a sense of comfort and stability in an ever-changing world.7 In developing countries around the world, basic security is fundamental, and still a concern. While India has seen progressive economic growth, the country still struggles with widespread food security issues.8 Stability in an increasingly tumultuous world will become ever more precious, with an ever greater impact on people’s happiness.



How people are seeking happiness at any one moment in time is continually changing for two key reasons. Firstly, the macro factors in the environment in which we live are constantly changing. These can be anything from the effects of immigration to the prolonged impact of the global recession to advances in technology. These macro factors are culture-specific, although not surprisingly, there are often commonalities between countries, due to the interconnected nature of the world today. The second factor is hedonic adaptation. What makes us happy today or tomorrow might not be the same in a month or in a year. Human happiness is continually evolving.

It is the confluence of all of these factors that manifests itself in the consumer trends we see all around us. For each country we have examined, there seems to be a different story on how consumers are seeking to achieve happiness from each of the seven drivers. Sometimes the story is subtly altered, whilst other times a driver may be expressed very differently. It depends partly on the cultural heritage, and partly on macro factors at play in that country. This also impacts the rise and evolution of consumer trends, as new manifestations reflect changing behaviours, attitudes and expectations of fulfilling fundamental desire for maximising happiness. Ultimately, determining what motivates human happiness is – we believe – a key factor in being able to successfully understand today’s consumer.




1 Mathews, G. (2012). Happiness, culture, and context. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(4), 299-312.

2 Diener, E. and Chan, M.Y. (2011). Happy people live longer: Subjective well‐being contributes to health and longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and WellBeing3(1), 1-43.

3 Rimer, S. and Drexler, M. (2011). The Biology of emotion – and what it may teach us about helping people to live longer. Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved from:

4 Khaw, D. and Kern, M. (2014). A Cross-Cultural Comparison of the PERMA Model of Well-being. Berkeley, p.10.

5 Cummins, R. (2015). What Makes Us Happy? Australian Unity

6 Foundation for Future Studies. (2016). Deutsche Tourismusanalyse: Urlaubsfrust statt Reiselust. Foundation for Future Studies Newsletter  Ausgabe 267, 37. Jahrgang, 17. Februar 2016

7 Teo, Nicholas. (2015). What Happiness in Singapore Means: Stability and Kinship. Retrieved from:

8 Chadha, Neeru. (2016). Food Security in India: Issues and Challenges. International Journal of Humanities, Arts, Medicine, and Science 4(1), 79-86.


*The original article was published in Asia Research Magazine, Q1, 2017

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