Gross National Happiness

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the most widely used measure of economic performance. GDP is a quantitative measure of the total output of an economy. An expanding GDP shows economic growth while a contracting GDP could indicate recession. However, GDP does not take into account many factors that promote the citizens’ welfare and make them happy. It does not adjust for the negative production externalities that can reduce the quality of life, e.g. air pollution. GDP does not help to determine whether people are poor or deprived of nutrients, water, education, healthcare and a safe environment.


Bhutan, a South Asian country of fewer than 1 million inhabitants, introduced Gross National Happiness (GNH) in 1972.  GNH measures the happiness and welfare of the citizens. It is used to determine policy priorities and evaluate the effectiveness of government policies. The United Nations (UN) encouraged other countries to follow in the footsteps of Bhutan by not restricting the evaluation of the wellbeing of their citizens to economic indicators. Consequently, the UN declared March 20 as the International Day of Happiness. Besides, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network publishes the World Happiness Report annually. The World Happiness Report ranks countries and cities based on factors that can affect happiness.

Bhutan uses a GNH index to track the happiness and wellbeing of its population. Other countries have similar indicators that can track economic progress in terms of wellbeing of their citizens. The GNH is based on four pillars and nine areas (domains). Each domain has indicators that are tracked. For instance, the indicators under the psychological wellbeing domain are life satisfaction, positive emotions, negative emotions and spirituality.

the nine domains of Gross National Happiness Index