Gross National Happiness

Gross National Happiness

Gross National Happiness (GNH) is an attempt to define quality of life in more holistic and psychological terms than Gross National Product.

The term was coined by Bhutan's King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972 in response to criticism that his economy was growing poorly. It signaled his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan's unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values. Like many moral goals, it is somewhat easier to state than to define. Nonetheless, it serves as a unifying vision for the Five Year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and development plans of the country.

While conventional development models stress economic growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH claims to be based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.

Qualitative and quantitative indicators

There is no exact quantitative definition of GNH. []

GNH, like the Genuine Progress Indicator, refers to the concept of a quantitative measurement of well-being and happiness. The two measures are both motivated by the notion that subjective measures like well-being are more relevant and important than more objective measures like consumption. It is not measured directly, but only the factors which are believed to lead to it.

According to Daniel Kahneman, a Princeton University psychologist, happiness can be measured using the day reconstruction method, which consists in recollecting memories of the previous working day by writing a short diary. [cite web |url=,,2087-1388623,00.html |title=Happiness is the new economics |accessdate=2007-01-08 |last=Templeton |first=Sarah-Kate |authorlink= |coauthors= |date=December 5, 2004 |year= |month= |format=html |work= |publisher=Timesonline |pages= |language= |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ]

A second-generation GNH concept, treating happiness as a socioeconomic development metric, was proposed in 2006 by Med Yones, the President of International Institute of Management. The metric measures socioeconomic development by tracking 7 development area including the nation's mental and emotional health. [] GNH value is proposed to be an index function of the total average per capita of the following measures:

# Economic Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of economic metrics such as consumer debt, average income to consumer price index ratio and income distribution
# Environmental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of environmental metrics such as pollution, noise and traffic
# Physical Wellness: Indicated via statistical measurement of physical health metrics such as severe illnesses
# Mental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of mental health metrics such as usage of antidepressants and rise or decline of psychotherapy patients
# Workplace Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of labor metrics such as jobless claims, job change, workplace complaints and lawsuits
# Social Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of social metrics such as discrimination, safety, divorce rates, complaints of domestic conflicts and family lawsuits, public lawsuits, crime rates
# Political Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of political metrics such as the quality of local democracy, individual freedom, and foreign conflicts.

The above 7 metrics were incorporated into the first Global GNH Survey []

GNH conferences

The "3rd International Conference on Gross National Happiness Towards Global Transformation: WORLD VIEWS MAKE A DIFFERENCE" offered an opportunity to articulate Asian world views towards transformation in a 'message to the world'. It took place in Nong Khai and Bangkok, Thailand between 22 and 28 November 2007.

Implying the transition from a natural to modernized state, the 3rd International Conference on Gross National Happiness (GNH 3) took place in two locations: the first three days took place in rural north-eastern province of Nong Khai and the last three days in the urban campus of Chulalongkorn University in central Bangkok, Thailand. The organizers planned all activities so that participants were able to explore a large variety of venues, presentation and discussion formats and draw on the great variety and talents of the entire group of 800 participants who registered. See website [] to download references, pictures, academic papers, sign-up for newsletter and more.

Main co-organizers were the [ Sathirakoses Nagapradipa Foundation] (Thailand), [ The Center for Bhutan Studies] , while local NGOs, progressive business group [ Social Venture Network] and the government of Thailand in particular The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Thailand, have formed a support network together with research agencies and other government departments like the [ Thai Health Promotion Foundation] .

"Rethinking Development: Local Pathways to Global Wellbeing", the "Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness" was held in Antigonish, Nova Scotia June 20–24, 2005, co-hosted by [ Genuine Progress Index Atlantic] (proceedings online); the Coady International Institute; Shambhala; the Centre for Bhutan Studies; the Province of Nova Scotia; the Gorsebrook Research Institute at Saint Mary's University; and the University of New Brunswick.

The second regional Conference took place November 8-11, 2006 at Meiji Gakuin University in Yokohama. The conference examined Haida successes to apply non western economic and social modalities.

Happiness as understood by neo-classical economics

Under neo-classical economic theory happiness, subjectively defined, has long been the standard of measurement used interchangeably with utility as well as the general welfare. Economists attempt to quantify happiness through measurements in consumption and profits. For example if X product is consumed in good quantity for high profit, neo-classical economists argue that individuals know that this good, and all the factors used in the production of the good, generate a great deal of happiness for society. It is this equating of high consumption levels of a good with happiness that has been challenged by proponents of GNH.

External Validation of Bhutan's GNH

In a widely cited study, "A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge to Positive Psychology?" by Adrian G. White of the University of Leicester in 2007, Bhutan ranked 8th out of 178 countries in Subjective Well-Being, a metric that has been used by many psychologists since 1997. [ A Global Projection of Subjective Well-being: A Challenge to Positive Psychology?] In fact, it is the only country in the top 20 "happiest" countries that has a very low GDP.

Criticism of GNH

Critics allege that because GNH depends on a series of subjective judgments about well-being, governments may be able to define GNH in a way that suits their interests. In the case of Bhutan, for instance, they say that the government expelled about one hundred thousand people and stripped them of their Bhutanese citizenship on the grounds that the deportees were ethnic Nepalese who had settled in the country illegally. [cite web | work=BBC Website | title=Bhutan refugees on hunger strike | url= | accessdate=2006-07-08] [cite web | work=BBC Website | title=Bhutan criticised over Nepalese refugees | url= | accessdate=2006-07-08] While this would reduce Bhutan's wealth by most traditional measures such as GDP, the Bhutan government claims it has not reduced Bhutan's GNH.

Alternative indicators of economic progress have also been supported by a number of NGOs such as the UK's New Economics Foundation, and are employed in some governments notably in Europe and Canada.

See also

* Post-materialism
* Utilitarianism
* Happy Planet Index
* Happiness economics


* Brooks, Arthur (2008), "Gross National Happiness", Basic Books, ISBN 0-46-500278-1
* Layard, Richard (2005), "Happiness: Lessons from a new Science", Penguin Press, ISBN 0-14-303701-3
* Eric Ezechieli, "Beyond Sustainable Development: Education for Gross National Happiness in Bhutan" , Stanford University, 2003


External links

* [ The International Conference on Gross National Happiness]
* Nadia Mustafa, [,8599,1016266,00.html?promoid=rss_top "What About Gross National Happiness?"] , Time, 10 January 2005
* Rajni Bakshi, [ "Gross National Happiness"] , "Resurgence", 25 January 2005
* [ "Gross National Happiness"] - a set of discussion papers, Centre for Bhutan Studies
* Institute of Empirical Research in Economics, Zurich University [ Working papers] (enter search term "happiness")
* International Institute of Management - US based GHN research, [ GNH policy white paper] [ Global GNH Survey]
* Frank Dixon, Innovest Inc. February 2004, "Gross National Happiness: Improving Unsustainable Western Economic Systems" ( [ Word Document] )
* Andrew C. Revkin, cite web | title=A New Measure of Well-Being From a Happy Little Kingdom | work=The New York Times| url=| accessdate = 2005-10-04 Also available as [ PDF]
* Bhutan 2008 [ Paeans to the King]
* [ GNH 2 Media Clips] tracks the appearance of the notion of "Gross National Happiness" in the media 2000-2005 []

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