Gross National Happiness

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Slogan about Gross National Happiness in Thimphu's School of Traditional Arts

Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a development philosophy as well as an index which is used to measure the collective happiness in a nation. The concept was first used in Bhutan.[1] The term 'Gross National Happiness' was coined in 1979 during an interview at Bombay airport when the then king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, said "We do not believe in Gross National Product. Gross National Happiness is more important."[2] The term has been described as propoganda by the Bhutanese government to distract from human rights abuses in the country.



The term "gross national happiness" was coined by the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in the 1970s.[3]

The GNH's central tenants are: "sustainable and equitable socio-economic development; environmental conservation; preservation and promotion of culture; and good governance".[4]

GNH is distinguishable by for example valuing collective happiness as the goal of governance, and by emphasizing harmony with nature and traditional values.[5]

Other developments[edit]

Two Canadians, Michael and Martha Pennock, played a major role in developing the Bhutanese GNH survey. They developed a shorter international version of the survey which has been used in their home region of Victoria BC as well as in Brazil. The Pennocks also collaborated with Ura in the production of a policy lens which is used by the Bhutanese GNH Commission for anticipating the impact of policy initiatives upon the levels of GNH in Bhutan.[6]

GNH was later articulated as nine domains, which provides a further level of conceptual analysis for policy making. These are: psychological well-being, health, time use, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.[7][8]

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.[9]

The former king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, was a close friend of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck and conceived the similar philosophy of “Sufficiency Economy.” In 2016, Thailand launched its own GNH center.[10]

The current prime minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, has preferred to focus on more concrete goals instead of promoting GNH.[11]

GNH Implementation[edit]

The implementation of a GNH policy can be challenging as it requires considerable institutional support. In Bhutan, the implementation – or mainstreaming – of GNH into political institutions has been a gradual process for several decades but recently accelerated with the introduction of the GNH Index and the GNH Screening Tool.

As part of a lengthy and ongoing process of integrating the GNH philosophy into public policy, the GNH Index was developed by the Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) to help measure the progress of Bhutanese society. In 2010, the first nationwide GNH survey was conducted with a sample size of 8,510 Bhutanese aged 15 and above. The second nationwide survey was conducted in 2015 and had a sample size of 8,871. After all three rounds of surveys, follow-up interviews and additional data gathering was conducted in order to review and refine the survey. The GNH survey covers all twenty districts (Dzonkhag) and results are reported for varying demographic factors such as gender, age, abode, and occupation. The survey therefore provides a rich dataset to compare the happiness between different groups of citizens, and how this has changed over time.[12]


GNH has been described by critics as a propaganda tool used by the Bhutanese government to distract from ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses it has committed.[13][14]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan" (PDF). National Council. Royal Government of Bhutan. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  2. ^ Dorji, Tashi (15 June 2012). "The story of a king, a poor country, and a rich idea". Business Bhutan. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  3. ^ Dorji, Tashi (15 June 2012). "The story of a king, a poor country, and a rich idea". Business Bhutan. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  4. ^ Tenth Five-Year Plan: 2008-2013 (PDF). Thimphu, Bhutan: Gross National Happiness Commission - Royal Government of Bhutan, Actual Date of Publishing June 25, 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  5. ^ Ura, Karma; Alkire, Sabina; Zangmo, Tshoki; Wangdi, Karma (May 2012). An Extensive Analysis of GNH Index (PDF). Thimphu, Bhutan: The Centre for Bhutan Studies. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  6. ^ Pennock, M; Ura, K. "Gross national happiness as a framework for health impact assessment". Environmental Impact Assessment Review. 31: 61–65. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2010.04.003. 
  7. ^ Ura, Karma (2008). "Understanding the Development Philosophy of Gross National Happiness". Interview with Bhutan Broadcasting Service. 
  8. ^ "Welcome to the CBS's works on Gross National Happiness!". Gross National Happiness. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  9. ^ Kramer, Adam. "An unobtrusive behavioral model of "gross national happiness"". Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: 287–290. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  10. ^ "Thailand GNH Center". 
  11. ^ Harris, Gardiner (4 October 2013). "Index of Happiness? Bhutan’s New Leader Prefers More Concrete Goals". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ A Compass Towards a Just and Harmoneous Society: 2015 GNH Survey Report. Thimphu, Bhutan: Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research. 2016. ISBN 978-99936-14-86-9. 
  13. ^ Thapa, Saurav Jung (July 2011). "Bhutan’s Hoax: of Gross National Happiness". Wave Magazine. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. 
  14. ^ Arora, Vishal (April 25, 2014). "Bhutan’s Human Rights Record Defies ‘Happiness’ Claim". The Diplomat. 

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]