Taking Happiness Seriously – Eleven Dialogues on Gross National Happiness

Taking Happiness Seriously – Eleven Dialogues on Gross National Happiness by Dr Ross McDonald

This is a collection of in-depth dialogues between the author and well-known players central to the formation of this important goal. It includes dialogues with the Honourable Prime Mnister of Bhutan, global luminaries in the fields of happiness/wellbeing such as Dr Ron Colman, Dr Nic Marks and Prof Ruut Veehoven along with important Bhutanese voices including the Anti-Corruption Commissioner, the country’s leading Buddhist scholar and voices from the media and civil society.

First published 2010

An Extensive Analysis of GNH Index

Overall, in 2010, 8.3% of Bhutanese people are ‘deeply happy’ according to GNH; 32.6% are ‘extensively happy’; 48.7% are ‘narrowly happy’, and 10.4% are ‘unhappy’. These four groups correspond to people who have achieved sufficiency in more than 77%, 66-76%, 50-65%, and less than half of the nine domains, respectively. The 2010 GNH Index uses the middle cutoff. Its value is 0.743 and shows that, overall, 40.9% of Bhutanese are identified as happy (meaning they are extensively or deeply happy), and the remaining 59.1% enjoy sufficiency in 56.6% of the domains on average. Recall that 48.7% of these are already narrowly happy, but are considered not-yet-happy for policy purposes. GNH gradients and indices are reported for each of the 20 districts by gender, by rural-urban areas, and, for illustrative purposes, by age and certain occupational categories.

The analysis has two parts: first, the wellbeing of the people who have been identified as ‘happy’ is examined to show the indicators in which they enjoy sufficiency. Some individual examples are presented to show that the ‘happiest’ people are diverse with respect to age, district, occupation, gender, and sufficiency profiles.

Second, the insufficiencies among those not identified as happy (or not-yet- happy) are examined. The GNH Index value can rise either by increasing the percentage of people who are happy, or the percentage in which not- yet-happy people enjoy sufficiency. This analysis clarifies areas where policy interventions or actions by other institutions could increase GNH. All tables used in this report, together with the survey instrument of questions used in the index and statistical analyses, are presented in the extensive appendices.

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A Short Guide to GNH Index

Bhutan’s GNH Index is a multidimensional measure and it is linked with a set of policy and programme screening tools so that it has practical applications. The GNH index is built from data drawn from periodic surveys which are representative by district, gender, age, rural-urban residence, etc. Representative sampling allows its results to be decomposed at various sub-national levels, and such disaggregated information can be examined and understood more by organizations and citizens for their uses. In the GNH Index, unlike certain concepts of happiness in current western literature, happiness is itself multidimensional – not measured only by subjective well-being, and not focused narrowly on happiness that begins and ends with oneself and is concerned for and with oneself. The pursuit of happiness is collective, though it can be experienced deeply personally. Different people can be happy in spite of their disparate circumstances and the options for diversity must be wide.

The GNH Index is meant to orient the people and the nation towards happiness, primarily by improving the conditions of not- yet-happy people. We can break apart the GNH Index to see where unhappiness is arising from and for whom. For policy action, the GNH Index enables the government and others to increase GNH in two ways.

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