By Roie Philom

Gross National Happiness (GNH)

The term "gross national happiness" was coined in 1972 by Bhutan's then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck

The Royal Government of Bhutan in 2005 made the decision to develop GNH indicators in order to move the concept of GNH from the point of academic discourse to a measurable one. The indicators aim to check whether programmes and policies are consistent with the values of GNH.

Click here for a video about Bhutan.

Click here for an article about Bhutan.

Click here for a simple explanation of GNH.

Click here for an interview with Jigme Y Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan about GNH.

Click here for a printable version of a happiness questionaire by Roie Philom.

Areas of Happiness

The Bhutanese grounding in Buddhist ideals suggests that beneficial 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 sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance. At this level of generality, the concept of GNH is transcultural—a nation need not be Buddhist in order to value sustainable development, cultural integrity, ecosystem conservation, and good governance. Through collaboration with an international group of scholars and empirical researchers the Centre for Bhutan Studies further defined these four pillars with greater specificity into eight general contributors to happiness- physical, mental and spiritual health; time-balance; social and community vitality; cultural vitality; education; living standards; good governance; and ecological vitality. Although the GNH framework reflects its Buddhist origins, it is solidly based upon the empirical research literature of happiness, positive psychology and wellbeing.

There is no exact quantitative definition of GNH, but elements that contribute to GNH are subject to quantitative measurement. Low rates of infant mortality, for instance, correlate positively with subjective expressions of well-being or happiness within a country. The practice of social science has long been directed toward transforming subjective expression of large numbers of people into meaningful quantitative data; there is no major difference between asking people "how confident are you in the economy?" and "how satisfied are you with your job?"

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.

A second-generation GNH concept, treating happiness as a socioeconomic development metric, was proposed in 2006 by Med Jones, the President of International Institute of Management. The metric measures socioeconomic development by tracking seven development areas 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:

  1. 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
  2. Environmental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of environmental metrics such as pollution, noise and traffic
  3. Physical Wellness: Indicated via statistical measurement of physical health metrics such as severe illnesses
  4. 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
  5. Workplace Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of labor metrics such as jobless claims, job change, workplace complaints and lawsuits
  6. 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
  7. 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 seven metrics were incorporated into the first Global GNH Survey.

Ed Diener, a psychologist from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has developed a scale referred to as subjective well-being, a concept related to happiness and quality of life, which has been used to compare nations to each other on this construct. This study found that "high income, individualism, human rights, and social equality correlated strongly with each other, and with SWB"

Adam Kramer, a psychologist from the University of Oregon, has developed a behavioral model of "Gross National Happiness" based on the use of positive and negative words in social network status updates, resulting in a quantitative GNH metric.

Test your Happiness

Psychologists say it is possible to measure your happiness.

This test designed by psychologist Professor Ed Diener from the University of Illinois, takes just a minute to complete.

To find out how happy you are just look at the five statements below and decide whether you agree or disagree using a 1-7 scale.

1. Strongly disagree
2. Disagree
3. Slightly disagree
4. Neither agree nor disagree
5. Slightly agree
6. Agree
7. Strongly agree

Please answer these questions as honestly as you can.
1. In most ways my life is ideal.
2. The conditions of my life are excellent.
3. I am satisfied with my life.
4. So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
5. If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

Add up your scores.

Evaluate your Total Score.
31-35 You are extremely satisfied with your life.
26-30 Very satisfied.
21-25 Reasonably satisfied.
20 Neutral
15-19 Slightly unsatisfied
10-14 Unsatisfied
5-9 Extremely unsatisfied

Gross National Happiness (GNH)

GNH is based on the premise that the calculation of wealth should consider other aspects besides economic development: the preservation of the environment and the quality of life of the people. The goal of a society should be the integration of material development with psychological, cultural, and spiritual aspects - all in harmony with the Earth.

The Four Pillars of GNH
* the promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development
* the preservation and promotion of cultural values
* the conservation of the natural environment, and
* the establishment of good governance

Happiness is a fuzzy concept and can mean many things to many people. Part of the challenge of a science of happiness is to identify different concepts of happiness, and where applicable, split them into their components.

In the 2nd Edition of the Handbook of Emotions (2000), evolutionary psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby say that happiness comes from "encountering unexpected positive events". In the 3rd Edition of the Handbook of Emotions (2008), Michael Lewis says "happiness can be elicited by seeing a significant other". According to Mark Leary, as reported in a November 1995 issue of Psychology Today, "we are happiest when basking in the acceptance and praise of others". In a March 2009 edition of The Journal of Positive Psychology, Sara Algoe and Jonathan Haidt say that "happiness" may be the label for a family of related emotional states, such as joy, amusement, satisfaction, gratification, euphoria, and triumph.

According to a review in Boston.com on August 23, 2009, money doesn't buy much happiness unless it's used in certain ways. "Beyond the point at which people have enough to comfortably feed, clothe, and house themselves, having more money - even a lot more money - makes them only a little bit happier." However we can sometimes get more happiness bang for our buck by spending it in prosocial ways. A Harvard Business School study found that "spending money on others actually makes us happier than spending it on ourselves".

There are various factors that have been correlated with happiness, but no validated method has been found to improve happiness in a meaningful way for most people.

Psychologist Martin Seligman provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology's correlational findings: humans seem happiest when they have
1. Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths, etc.),
2. Engagement (or flow, the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity),
3. Relationships (social ties have turned out to be extremely reliable indicator of happiness),
4. Meaning (a perceived quest or belonging to something bigger), and
5. Accomplishments (having realized tangible goals).

There have also been some studies of how religion relates to happiness. Causal relationships remain unclear, but more religion is seen in happier people. This correlation may be the result of community membership and not necessarily belief in religion itself. Another component may have to do with ritual, according to a 2009 article in Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience.

Abraham Harold Maslow (April 1, 1908 - June 8, 1970), an American professor of psychology, founded humanistic psychology. A visual aid he created to explain his theory, which he called the hierarchy of needs, is a pyramid depicting the levels of human needs, psychological, and physical. When a human being ascends the steps of the pyramid, he reaches self-actualization. Beyond the routine of needs fulfillment, Maslow envisioned moments of extraordinary experience, known as peak experiences, profound moments of love, understanding, happiness, or rapture, during which a person feels more whole, alive, self-sufficient, and yet a part of the world.

An interpretation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom.

Richard Layard (born 15 March 1934) is a British economist. He was founder- director in 1990 of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. He argues that people in the West could live happier lives, if instead of focusing on the growth of the outer wealth, they concentrated on the growth of inner happiness. At the moment the unbridled selfishness destroys the growth of general happiness. People in the West need a new philosophy on the basis of the happiness research. The goal should be the greatest happiness of all.

Richard Layard stated, "Although the people in the West have for decades got richer, they have not become happier. (...) Studies show that people are not happier today than 50 years ago. And this is despite the fact that the real median income in this period has more than doubled."On the contrary, people are getting richer externally, and internally unhappier. The likelihood of suffering from a clinical depression is now ten times as large as a century ago.

King Wangchuck of Bhutan's idea that public policy should be more closely tied to wellbeing, how people feel about their lives, is catching on. There is a growing interest in some policymaking circles in looking at these measures, says Richard Easterlin, economics professor at the University of Southern California. We have been misguided in dismissing what people say about how happy they are and simply assuming that if they are consuming more apples and buying more cars they are better off. There are efforts to devise a new economic index that would measure wellbeing gauged by things like satisfaction with personal relationships, employment, and meaning and purpose in life, as well as, for example, the extent new drugs and technology improve standards of living.

Oxford Happiness Questionnaire

by Dr. Steve Wright

The Oxford Happiness Questionnaire was developed by psychologists Michael Argyle and Peter Hills at Oxford University. Take a few moments to take the survey. This is a good way to get a snapshot of your current level of happiness. You can even use your score to compare to your happiness level at some point in the future by taking the survey again. If you are using some of the interventions presented on this site to raise your happiness level, you can see whether your score on the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire goes up as a result.


Below are a number of statements about happiness. Please indicate how much you agree or disagree with each by entering a number in the blank after each statement, according to the following scale:
1 = strongly disagree
2 = moderately disagree
3 = slightly disagree
4 = slightly agree
5 = moderately agree
6 = strongly agree

Please read the statements carefully, because some are phrased positively and others negatively. Don't take too long over individual questions; there are no "right" or "wrong" answers (and no trick questions). The first answer that comes into your head is probably the right one for you. If you find some of the questions difficult, please give the answer that is true for you in general or for most of the time.

The Questionnaire
1. I don't feel particularly pleased with the way I am. (R) _____
2. I am intensely interested in other people. _____
3. I feel that life is very rewarding. _____
4. I have very warm feelings towards almost everyone. _____
5. I rarely wake up feeling rested. (R) _____
6. I am not particularly optimistic about the future. (R) _____
7. I find most things amusing. _____
8. I am always committed and involved. _____
9. Life is good. _____
10. I do not think that the world is a good place. (R) _____
11. I laugh a lot. _____
12. I am well satisfied about everything in my life. _____
13. I don't think I look attractive. (R) _____
14. There is a gap between what I would like to do and what I have done. (R) _____
15. I am very happy. _____
16. I find beauty in some things. _____
17. I always have a cheerful effect on others. _____
18. I can fit in (find time for) everything I want to. _____
19. I feel that I am not especially in control of my life. (R) _____
20. I feel able to take anything on. _____
21. I feel fully mentally alert. _____
22. I often experience joy and elation. _____
23. I don't find it easy to make decisions. (R) _____
24. I don't have a particular sense of meaning and purpose in my life. (R) _____
25. I feel I have a great deal of energy. _____
26. I usually have a good influence on events. _____
27. I don't have fun with other people. (R) _____
28. I don't feel particularly healthy. (R) _____
29. I don't have particularly happy memories of the past. (R) _____
Calculate your score
Step 1. Items marked (R) should be scored in reverse:

If you gave yourself a "1," cross it out and change it to a "6."
Change "2? to a "5?
Change "3? to a "4?
Change "4? to a "3?
Change "5? to a "2?
Change "6? to a "1?

Step 2. Add the numbers for all 29 questions. (Use the converted numbers for the 12 items that are reverse scored.)

Step 3. Divide by 29. So your happiness score = the total (from step 2) divided by 29.

I recommend you record your score and the date. Then you'll have the option to compare your score now with your score at a later date. This can be especially helpful if you are trying some of the exercises, and actively working on increasing your happiness.

UPDATE: A lot of people have been asking for some kind of interpretation of the raw number "happiness score" you get in step 3 above. What follows is just off the top of my head, but it's based in part on the fact that the average person gets a score of about 4.


I suggest you read all the entries below regardless of what score you got, because I think there's valuable information here for everyone.

1-2 : Not happy. If you answered honestly and got a very low score, you're probably seeing yourself and your situation as worse than it really is. I recommend taking the Depression Symptoms test (CES-D Questionnaire) at the University of Pennsylvania's "Authentic Happiness" Testing Center. You'll have to register, but this is beneficial because there are a lot of good tests there and you can re-take them later and compare your scores.

2-3 : Somewhat unhappy. Try some of the exercises on this site like the Gratitude Journal & Gratitude Lists, or the Gratitude Visit; or take a look at the "Authentic Happiness" site mentioned immediately above.

3-4 : Not particularly happy or unhappy. A score of 3.5 would be an exact numerical average of happy and unhappy responses. Some of the exercises mentioned just above have been tested in scientific studies and have been shown to make people lastingly happier.

4 : Somewhat happy or moderately happy. Satisfied. This is what the average person scores.

4-5 : Rather happy; pretty happy. Check other score ranges for some of my suggestions.

5-6 : Very happy. Being happy has more benefits than just feeling good. It's correlated with benefits like health, better marriages, and attaining your goals.

6 : Too happy. Yes, you read that right. Recent research seems to show that there's an optimal level of happiness for things like doing well at work or school, or for being healthy, and that being "too happy" may be associated with lower levels of such things.

Satisfaction with Life (SWL)

Rank    Country         SWL   
1        Denmark        273                                    
2        Switzerland    273                                    
3        Austria        260                                    
4        Iceland        260                                    
5        The Bahamas    256                                    
6        Finland        256                                    
7        Sweden         256                                    
8        Bhutan         253                                    
9        Brunei         253                                    
10       Canada         253                                    
11       Ireland        253                                    
12       Luxembourg     253                                    
13       Costa Rica     250                                    
14       Malta          250                                    
15       Netherlands    250                                    
16       Antigua uda    246                                    
17       Malaysia       246                                    
18       New Zealand    246                                    
19       Norway         246                                    
20       Seychelles     246                                    
21       Saint Kittsis  246                                    
22       United Arab Em 246                                    
23       United States  246                                    
24       Vanuatu        246                                    
25       Venezuela      246                                    
26       Australia      243                                    
27       Barbados       243                                    
28       Belgium        243                                    
29       Dominica       243                                    
30       Oman           243                                    
31       Saudi Arabia   243                                    
32       Suriname       243                                    
33       Bahrain        240                                    
34       Colombia       240                                    
35       Germany        240                                    
36       Guyana         240                                    
37       Honduras       240                                    
38       Kuwait         240                                    
39       Panama         240                                    
40       Saint Vincent  240                                    
41       United Kingdom 236                                    
42       Dominican Rep  233                                    
43       Guatemala      233                                    
44       Jamaica        233                                    
45       Qatar          233                                    
46       Spain          233                                    
47       Saint Lucia    233                                    
48       Belize         230                                    
49       Cyprus         230                                    
50       Italy          230                                    
51       Mexico         230                                    
52       Samoa          230                                    
53       Singapore      230                                    
54       Solomon Is.    230                                    
55       Trinidad & Tob 230                                    
56       Argentina      226                                    
57       Fiji           223                                    
58       Israel         223                                    
59       Mongolia       223                                    
60       So Tom and Pr  223                                    
61       El Salvador    220                                    
62       France         220                                    
63       Hong Kong      220                                    
64       Indonesia      220                                    
65       Kyrgyzstan     220                                    
66       Maldives       220                                    
67       Slovenia       220                                    
68       China          220                                    
69       East Timor     220                                    
70       Tonga          220                                    
71       Chile          216                                    
72       Grenada        216                                    
73       Mauritius      216                                    
74       Namibia        216                                    
75       Paraguay       216                                    
76       Thailand       216                                    
77       Czech Republic 213                                    
78       Philippines    213                                    
79       Tunisia        213                                    
80       Uzbekistan     213                                    
81       Brazil         210                                    
82       China          210                                    
83       Cuba           210                                    
84       Greece         210                                    
85       Nicaragua      210                                    
86       Papua New Gui  210                                    
87       Uruguay        210                                    
88       Gabon          206                                    
89       Ghana          206                                    
90       Japan          206    
91       Yemen          206    
92       Portugal       203    
93       Sri Lanka      203    
94       Tajikistan     203    
95       Vietnam        203    
96       Iran           200    
97       Comoros        196    
98       Croatia        196    
99       Poland         196    
100      Cape Verde     193    
101      Kazakhstan     193    
102      South Korea    193    
103      Madagascar     193    
104      Bangladesh     190    
105      Congo          190    
106      The Gambia     190    
107      Hungary        190    
108      Libya          190    
109      South Africa   190    
110      Cambodia       186    
111      Ecuador        186    
112      Kenya          186    
113      Lebanon        186    
114      Morocco        186    
115      Peru           186    
116      Senegal        186    
117      Bolivia        183    
118      Haiti          183    
119      Nepal          183    
120      Nigeria        183    
121      Tanzania       183    
122      Benin          180    
123      Botswana       180    
124      Guinea-Bissau  180    
125      India          180    
126      Laos           180    
127      Mozambique     180    
128      Palestinian    180    
129      Slovakia       180    
130      Myanmar        176    
131      Mali           176    
132      Mauritania     176    
133      Turkey         176    
134      Algeria        173    
135      Equatorial Gui 173    
136      Romania        173    
137      Bosnia & Herze 170    
138      Cameroon       170    
139      Estonia        170    
140      Guinea         170    
141      Jordan         170    
142      Syria          170    
143      Sierra Leone   166    
144      Azerbaijan     163    
145      Cen African Rep163    
146      Macedonia      163    
147      Togo           163    
148      Zambia         163    
149      Angola         160    
150      Djibouti       160    
151      Egypt          160    
152      Burkina Faso   156    
153      Ethiopia       156    
154      Latvia         156    
155      Lithuania      156    
156      Uganda         156    
157      Albania        153    
158      Malawi         153    
159      Chad           150    
160      Cote d'Ivoire  150    
161      Niger          150            
162      Eritrea        146    
163      Rwanda         146    
164      Bulgaria       143    
165      Lesotho        143    
166      Pakistan       143    
167      Russia         143    
168      Swaziland      140    
169      Georgia        136    
170      Belarus        133    
171      Turkmenistan   133    
172      Armenia        123    
173      Sudan          120            
174      Ukraine        120    
175      Moldova        116    
176      Congo          110    
177      Zimbabwe       110    
178      Burundi        100    


Last revised January 2012.

URL: http://www.kyphilom.com/www/sm/sm10.htm

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All contents copyright (C) 2012, Roie Philom. All rights reserved.