gross national happiness


A statistical measure introduced in Bhutan to guide governmental policy. In 1972 the then King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, introduced the term gross national happiness, in deliberate contrast to gross national product. The government developed the idea into a full-fledged methodology for quantifying national happiness, and, governmental proposals are required to be evaluated using the GNH index, somewhat like Environmental Impact Reports in the United States. The data comes from a national survey conducted every two years by the Gross National Happiness Commission. The survey questions cover:

Four pillars of a happy society

Nine domains

Each domain has from 2 to 12 indicators, for example, “frequency of feeling of generosity.” Each indicator is associated with an index, such as the Emotional Health Index, the Spirituality Index, and the Afforestation Index. (For a complete picture, access An elaborate mathematical methodology reduces the survey responses to numbers.

The Center for Bhutan Studies maintains a website on the nation's GNH at


Quantifying national happiness became an active area of investigation in the late 20th century, supported by advances in the psychology of happiness, and lately, social networking. Some workers developed related measures, such as the Genuine Progress Index, which have been implemented experimentally in areas as diverse as Nova Scotia and Brazil. However, so far as we are aware, by 2010 only Bhutan had adopted an official definition.

For a useful list of media coverage of the GNH concept, 2000 – 2006, see

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