Promotion of health and happiness of its citizens are the ultimate goal of most state policies. State policies are increasingly directed towards enhancing well-being of its people, which for so long have been concentrated only on economic fronts. Health and happiness, although are two distinct and different things, have very thin line separating from one another. Most of the determinants of health and happiness are common. For instance, education, income and exercise can lead to good health as well as happiness. Whether happiness leads to better health or vice versa is a chicken-and-egg problem.
A study by Gerdtham et al (1997) found good health to have a significant positive effect on happiness. They categorised health states into “good health” and “bad health” and tried to see the probability of being happy. They found out that with bad health the probability of being happy “most of the time” was 0.42, while with good health the probability was 0.60.
Bhutanese also believe that happiness is the result of good health. Happiness in Bhutanese context is often summed up in a popular statement of “lus lu na tsha med, sems lu sdug sngal med” which roughly translates to “no physical illness and mental worries.” This correlates with WHO’s definition of health: “is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In general, if you ask any Bhutanese about what will make them happy, the obvious answer will be the above phrase. This reiterates the importance of good health as a dominant and important determinant of happiness. This also shows how much people place value on health vis-à-vis happiness.
If health is a strong determinant of happiness, as discussed above, then there is every reason for enhancement of health to be a policy priority of the state. Since the start of planned development in the early sixties, the Royal Government has accorded a high priority to promotion of good health of its population.
The WHO’s definition of health is a holistic one. All the areas mentioned in the definition are beyond the scope of this paper. Mental health and social health indicators are included under other domains like psychological well-being, community vitality, and living standard of the same survey. This paper, therefore, focuses only on physical health.
Although indicators in this study are designed for the Gross National Happiness Index, it must be clarified that all the indicators may not necessarily relate to happiness of an individual or it may not directly improve well-being. Some of them are like any other conventional health indicators which have a bearing on the overall health of an individual, but have little direct relevance to happiness. These indicators are indirectly related to happiness and well-being of individuals through its impact on health.