Gross National Happiness


Gross National Happiness (GNH), sometimes called Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH), is a philosophy that guides the government of Bhutan. It includes an index which is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of a population. Gross National Happiness Index is instituted as the goal of the government of Bhutan in the Constitution of Bhutan, enacted on 18 July 2008.[1]

Four pilars of Gross National Happiness (GNH) in Bhutan


The advent and concept of "Gross National Happiness" (GNH) flourished and germinated in the mind of Compassionate Bodhisattva Druk Gyelpo, the 4th King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, groomed with the evolution of "Gaki Phuensum" (Peace and Prosperity) and Modernization period of Bhutan during the reign (1952 - 1972) of Druk Gyelpo, the 3rd King of Bhutan, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk.

The term "Gross National Happiness" as conceptualized by the 4th King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1972 was declared as, "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product."[2] The concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing.[3]

In 2011, The UN General Assembly passed Resolution "Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development" urging member nations to follow the example of Bhutan and measure happiness and well-being and calling happiness a "fundamental human goal."[4]

In 2012, Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigme Thinley and the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations convened the High Level Meeting: Well-being and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm to encourage the spread of Bhutan's GNH philosophy.[5] At the High Level meeting, the first World Happiness Report was issued. Shortly afterward, the 20 March was declared to be International Day of Happiness by the UN in 2012 with resolution 66/28.[6]

Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay proclaimed a preference for focus on more concrete goals instead of promoting GNH when he took office,[7] but subsequently has protected the GNH of his country and promoted the concept internationally.[8] Other Bhutanese officials also promote the spread of GNH at the UN and internationally.[9][10]


GNH is distinguishable from Gross Domestic Product by valuing collective happiness as the goal of governance, by emphasizing harmony with nature and traditional values as expressed in the 9 domains of happiness and 4 pillars of GNH.[11] According to the Bhutanese government, the four pillars of GNH are:[12]

  1. sustainable and equitable socio-economic development;
  2. environmental conservation;
  3. preservation and promotion of culture; and
  4. good governance.

The nine domains of GNH are psychological well-being, health, time use, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.[13][14] Each domain is composed of subjective (survey-based) and objective indicators. The domains weigh equally but the indicators within each domain differ by weight.[15]

Bhutanese GNH indexEdit

Several scholars have noted that "the values underlying the individual pillars of GNH are defined as distinctly Buddhist," and "GNH constructs Buddhism as the core of the cultural values of the country (of Bhutan). They provide the foundation upon which the GNH rests."[16] GNH is thus seen as part of the Buddhist Middle Path, where "happiness is accrued from a balanced act rather than from an extreme approach."[17]

Implementation in BhutanEdit

The body charged with implementing GNH in Bhutan is the Gross National Happiness Commission.[18] The GNH Commission is composed of the Prime Minister as the Chairperson, Secretaries of each of the ministries of the government, and the Secretary of the GNH Commission.[19] The GNH Commission's tasks include conceiving and implementing the nation's 5-year plan and promulgating policies. The GNH Index is used to measure the happiness and well-being of Bhutan's population. A GNH Policy Screening Tool[20] and a GNH Project Screening Tool is used by the GNH commission to determine whether to pass policies or implement projects.[21] The GNH Screening tools are used by the Bhutanese GNH Commission for anticipating the impact of policy initiatives upon the levels of GNH in Bhutan.[22]

In 2008, the first Bhutanese GNH survey was conducted.[23][24] It was followed by a second one in 2010.[25] The third nationwide survey was conducted in 2015.[26] The GNH survey covers all twenty districts (Dzonkhag) and results are reported for varying demographic factors such as gender, age, abode, and occupation. The first GNH surveys consisted of long questionnaires that polled the citizens about living conditions and religious behavior, including questions about the times a person prayed in a day and other karma indicators. It took several hours to complete one questionnaire. Later rounds of the GNH Index were shortened, but the survey retained the religious behavioral indicators.[27]

The Bhutan GNH Index was developed by the Centre for Bhutan Studies with the help of Oxford University researchers to help measure the progress of Bhutanese society. The Index's function was based on the Alkire & Foster method of 2011.[27][28] After the creation of the GNH Index, the government used the metric to measure national progress and inform policy.[29][30]

The Bhutan GNH Index is considered to measure societal progress similarly to other models such as the OECD Better Life Index of 2011, and SPI Social Progress Index of 2013. One feature distinguishing Bhutan's GNH Index from the other models is that the other models are designed for secular governments and do not include religious behavior measurement components.

The data is used to compare happiness among different groups of citizens,[28] and changes over time.[31]

According to the World Happiness Report 2019, Bhutan is 95th out of 156 countries.[32]

The holistic consideration of multiple factors through the GNH approach has been cited as impacting Bhutan's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[33]


In Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, a shortened version of Bhutan's GNH survey was used by the local government, local foundations and governmental agencies under the leadership of Martha and Michael Pennock to assess the population of Victoria.[34][35]

In the state of São Paulo, Brazil, Susan Andrews,[36] through her organization Future Vision Ecological Park, used a version of Bhutan's GNH at a community level in some cities.[37]

In Seattle, Washington, United States, a version of the GNH Index was used by the Seattle City Council and Sustainable Seattle to assess the happiness and well-being of the Seattle Area population.[38][39][40] Other cities and areas in North America, including Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Creston, British Columbia and the U.S. state of Vermont, also used a version of the GNH Index.[41]

The state of Vermont's Governor declared April 13 (President Jefferson's birthday) "Pursuit of Happiness Day", and became the first state to pass legislation enabling development of alternative indicators and to assist in making policy. The University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies Vermont perform a periodic study of well-being in the state.[42]

At the University of Oregon, United States, a behavioral model of GNH based on the use of positive and negative words in social network status updates was developed by Adam Kramer.[43]

In 2016, Thailand launched its own GNH center.[44] The former king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, was a close friend of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and conceived the similar philosophy of Sufficiency Economy.

In the Philippines, the concept of GNH has been lauded by various personalities, notably Philippine senator and UN Global Champion for Resilience Loren Legarda, and former environment minister Gina Lopez. Bills have been filed in the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives in support of Gross National Happiness in the Philippines. Additionally, Executive Director of Bhutan's GNH Center, Dr. Saamdu Chetri, has been invited by high-level officials in the Philippines for a GNH Forum.[45][46][47]

Many other cities and governments have undertaken efforts to measure happiness and well-being (also termed "Beyond GDP"[48]) since the High Level Meeting in 2012, but have not used versions of Bhutan's GNH index. Among these include the national governments of the United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics[49] and the United Arab Emirates,[50] and cities including Somerville, Massachusetts, United States,[51] and Bristol, United Kingdom.[52] Also a number of companies which are implementing sustainability practices in business that have been inspired by GNH.[53]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ "The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan" (PDF). National Council. Royal Government of Bhutan. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  2. ^ Revkin, Andrew C. (4 October 2005). "A New Measure of Well-BeingFrom a Happy Little Kingdom". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 June 2021.
  3. ^ The Origin of Gross National Happiness
  4. ^ "Happiness : towards a holistic approach to development : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly". Archived from the original on 17 October 2017.
  5. ^ Bhutan (2012). "Defining a New Economic Paradigm: The Report of the High Level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness". United Nations. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  6. ^ "Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 28 June 2012 66/281. International Day of Happiness".
  7. ^ Harris, Gardiner (4 October 2013). "Index of Happiness? Bhutan's New Leader Prefers More Concrete Goals". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Tobgay, Tshering (2016). "This country isn't just carbon neutral, it's carbon negative". TED. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Pursuit of happiness is fundamental human goal,' Minister of Bhutan tells UN Assembly". UN News. 3 October 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  10. ^ Schultz, Kai (17 January 2017). "In Bhutan, Happiness Index as Gauge for Social Ills". New York Times. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  11. ^ Ura, Karma; Alkire, Sabina; Zangmo, Tshoki; Wangdi, Karma (May 2012). An Extensive Analysis of GNH Index (PDF). Thimphu, Bhutan: The Centre for Bhutan Studies. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  12. ^ Tenth Five-Year Plan: 2008–2013 (PDF). Thimphu, Bhutan: Gross National Happiness Commission – Royal Government of Bhutan, Actual Date of Publishing 25 June 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  13. ^ Ura, Karma (2008). "Understanding the Development Philosophy of Gross National Happiness". Interview with Bhutan Broadcasting Service.
  14. ^ "Welcome to the CBS's works on Gross National Happiness!". Gross National Happiness. Archived from the original on 8 May 2020. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  15. ^ Ura, Karma (2012). "A Short Guide to the Gross National Happiness Index" (PDF). The Centre for Bhutan Studies.
  16. ^ Kent Schroeder, Politics of Gross National Happiness: Governance and Development in Bhutan, Cham (Switzerland): Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, 27.
  17. ^ Chhewang Rinzin, On the Middle Path: The Social Basis for Sustainable Development in Bhutan, Utrecht: Copernicus Institute, 2006, 3.
  18. ^ "Gross National Happiness Commission".
  19. ^ "Commission Members".
  20. ^ "GNH Screening Tool".
  21. ^ "GNH Tools". Archived from the original on 1 November 2019. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  22. ^ Pennock, M; Ura, K (2011). "Gross national happiness as a framework for health impact assessment". Environmental Impact Assessment Review. 31: 61–65. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2010.04.003.
  23. ^ "The Gross National Happiness Index of Bhutan. Method and Illustrative Results" (PDF).
  24. ^ Alkire, Sabina (November 2008). "Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Index : methodology and results". Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI).
  25. ^ "2010 Survey Results". Archived from the original on 2 October 2019. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  26. ^ "A Compass Towards A Just and Harmonious Society: 2015 GNH Survey Report" (PDF).
  27. ^ a b "Short Guide to GNH Index" (PDF).
  28. ^ a b "Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Index". Oxford Poverty and Human Development Index. Archived from the original on 24 April 2020. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  29. ^ Adler, Alejandro (2009). "Gross National Happiness in Bhutan: A Living Example of an Alternative Approach to Progress". Social Impact Research Experience. 1: 1–137.
  30. ^ Musikanski, Laura (2014). "Happiness in Public Policy". Walden University Journal of Social Change. 6: 55–85.
  31. ^ A Compass Towards a Just and Harmoneous Society: 2015 GNH Survey Report. Thimphu, Bhutan: Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research. 2016. ISBN 978-99936-14-86-9. Archived from the original on 26 July 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  32. ^ Why happiness is easy to venerate, hard to generate, Tim Harford, Financial Times, 1 March 2019.
  33. ^ Politzer, Malia (22 July 2020). "Q&A: Is 'gross national happiness' the key to Bhutan escaping the pandemic?". Devex. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  34. ^ "The Happiness Index Partnership". Victoria Foundation. 12 January 2017.
  35. ^ Chatterjee, Rhitu (3 October 2011). "Measuring Happiness in Victoria, British Columbia".
  36. ^ "Susan Andrews". SourceWatch. The Center for Media and Democracy. 5 May 2012.
  37. ^ "GNH ´s Pilot Project in Brazil". YouTube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021.
  38. ^ Musikanski, Laura (January 2013). "The Happiness Initiative: The Serious Business of Well-Being". Solutions Journal. 4: 34–39.
  39. ^ Mastny, Lisa (17 November 2011). "Does Your Town Need A Happiness Index?". New Dream.
  40. ^ Jaffe, Eric (25 November 2011). "How Happy is Seattle?". CityLab.
  41. ^ "WikiProgress Knowledge Base - Happiness Alliance". Archived from the original on 14 March 2019.
  42. ^ "Measuring Well-being: Vermont Leads the Way". 22 November 2017.
  43. ^ Kramer, Adam (2010). "An unobtrusive behavioral model of "gross national happiness"". Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Chi '10: 287–290. doi:10.1145/1753326.1753369. ISBN 9781605589299. S2CID 207178394. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  44. ^ "Thailand GNH Center". Archived from the original on 2 February 2017.
  45. ^ Cañares-Yamsuan, Cathy (31 October 2016). "How PH can have Gross National Happiness, too".
  46. ^ "Gross National Happiness for PH; FVR still needed – Malacañang".
  47. ^ "Bhutan 'happiness guru' speaks on 'Gross National Happiness'". 23 October 2016.
  48. ^ "BRAINPOoL Final Report: Beyond GDP – From Measurement to Politics and Policy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 January 2018. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  49. ^ "Measuring National Well-being: Personal Well-being in the UK, 2014 to 2015".
  50. ^ "Happy UAE". Archived from the original on 25 April 2018. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  51. ^ "Somerville Happiness Survey responses - 2011, 2013, 2015".
  52. ^ "Happy City Happiness Pulse".
  53. ^ Tideman, Sander G. (2016). "Gross National Happiness: Lessons for sustainability leadership". South Asian Journal of Global Business Research. 5 (2): 190–213. doi:10.1108/SAJGBR-12-2014-0096.


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  • Powdyel, T.S. "Gross National Happiness, A Tribute," Gross National Happiness, Kinga, Sonam, et al. (eds) (1999), Thimphu: The Center for Bhutan Studies
  • Priesner, Stefan (2004), Indigeneity and Universality in Social Science: A South Asian Response, SAGE Publications, ISBN 0-7619-3215-1
  • Schroeder, Kent (2018), Politics of Gross National Happiness: Governance and Development in Bhutan, Cham (Switzerland): Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 978-3-319-65387-7
  • Thinley, L. (October 1998). Values and Development: "Gross National Happiness." Speech presented at the Millennium Meeting for Asia and the Pacific, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
  • Tideman, Sander G. (2016), Gross National Happiness: Lessons for Sustainability Leadership, South Asian Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 5 Iss 2 pp. 190 – 213

External linksEdit

  • Nadia Mustafa, "What About Gross National Happiness?", Time, 10 January 2005
  • Rajni Bakshi, "Gross National Happiness", Resurgence, 25 January 2005
  • International Institute of Management – US based GHN research, GNH policy white paper
  • Bhutan 2008 Paeans to the King
  • World Happiness Report
  • Bhutan, Gross National Happiness and Sustainable Development – YouTube (12:31)
  • Gross National Happiness USA United States-based non-profit using GNH framing to spark dialogue and inform public policy.