What is Gross National Happiness?


Only recently has prosperity been connected with money as a part of its intrinsic definition. Originally, prosperity meant the opposite of affliction: satisfaction, happiness, and peace. Yet today, politicians and economists, left or right, seldom question economic growth at least in the mainstream media. Growth is costly at this extreme level, and the rising environmental costs are not sustainable when growth is left unchecked.

Growth does not directly translate to prosperity, and for this reason, it is necessary to adopt measurements that assess more than money. One of these measurements is Gross National Happiness. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a measurement of the quality of life and an alterative to traditional developmental measurements, such as Gross Domestic Product. The concept was first developed in Bhutan, and while not used as an official indicator in any other state, the idea has gained traction in many areas.

GNH was created in Bhutan in order to balance economic success with spiritual Buddhist values. The four main values outlined by GNH are sustainable development, environmental conservation, cultural values, and socially responsible government.

GNH has also been proposed more recently as a socioeconomic development metric, which uses 6 indicators to create its index:

  • Economic wellness
  • Environmental wellness
  • Physical wellness
  • Mental wellness
  • Workplace wellness
  • Social wellness
  • Political wellness


These measurements are an alternative to economic growth as an indication prosperity. Indexes like this bring attention to the importance of more holistic aspects of a state’s success.


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