Gross National Happiness

Gross National Happiness is a term coined by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1970s. This concept promotes sustainable development taking holistic approach towards the notions of progress with equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing. The concept of GNH has often been explained by its four pillars:

  1. Good Governance,
  2. Sustainable Socio-Economic Development,
  3. Cultural Preservation, and
  4. Environmental Conservation.

Lately these four pillars have been further classified into nine domains to create widespread understanding of GNH and to reflect the holistic range of GNH values. These nine domains are:

  1. Psychological wellbeing,
  2. Health,
  3. Education,
  4. Time use,
  5. Cultural diversity and resilience,
  6. Good governance,
  7. Community vitality,
  8. Ecological diversity and resilience,
  9. Living standards.

The domains represent each components of wellbeing for the Bhutanese people. The term ‘wellbeing’ here refers to fulfilling conditions of a ‘good life’ as per the values and principles laid down by the concept of Gross National Happiness.

Gross National Happiness survey was carried out in 2010 with representative samples taken at the districts and regional level. This survey was administered using GNH questionnaire which gathered data on a comprehensive picture of the wellbeing of Bhutanese. The survey gathered data from 7142 respondents; 6476or 90.7% of the respondents had sufficient data to be included in the GNH Index.

Highlights on GNH index

Men are happier than women on average. Of the nine domains, Bhutanese have highest sufficiency in health, then ecology, psychological wellbeing, and community vitality.

In urban areas 50% of the people are happy; in rural areas it is 37%.

Urban areas do better in health, living standards and education. Rural areas do better in community vitality, cultural resilience and good governance.

Happiness is higher among people with primary education or above, than those with no formal education, but higher education does not affect GNH very much.

The happiest people by occupation include civil servants, monks/anim, and GT/DT members. Interestingly, the unemployed are happier than corporate employees, housewives, farmers or the national work force.

Unmarried people and young people are among the happiest.

Survey result indicates equality across Dzongkhags, so there is no strict ranking among them. The happiest Dzongkhags include Paro, Sarpang, Dagana, Haa, Thimphu, Gasa, Tsirang, Punakha, Zhemgang, and Chukha.

The least happy Dzongkhag was SamdrupJonkhar.

Ranking of dzongkhags by GNH differs significantly from their ranking by income per capita. Sarpang, Dagana, and even Zhemgang for example, do far better in GNH than in income.

In terms of numbers, the highest number of happy people lives in Thimphu and Chukha – as do the highest number of unhappy people!

Thimphu is better in education and living standards than other Dzongkhags, but worse in community vitality.