Study notes

Gross National Happiness – Bhutan in Focus

  • Levels: AS, A Level, IB
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

The Himalayan country of Bhutan aims to measure progress in terms of Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than GDP.

The Bhutanese government has set out 4 main aspects to GNH:

  1. Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development
  2. Environmental conservation
  3. Preservation and promotion of national culture
  4. Good governance.

To support improvement in each of these aspects, the Bhutanese government has developed 9 “domains” that it aims to measure using both surveys (“subjective” measures) and objective measures.

  1. Psychological well-being
  2. Health
  3. Time-use
  4. Education
  5. Cultural diversity and resilience
  6. Good governance
  7. Community vitality
  8. Ecological diversity and resilience
  9. Living standards

GNH as a concept has spread from Bhutan, although is mostly used in cities and areas smaller than a country.

The United Nations now publishes an annual World Happiness Report. In 2019, Finland was declared the happiest country in the world for the 2nd year in a row, followed by Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands.

The country experiencing the biggest decline in happiness was Venezuela – a country afflicted by hyper-inflation, mass unemployment and a surge in extreme poverty. The most rapid climber was Togo.


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