Gross National Happiness is a term coined by His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the 1970s. The concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing. The concept of GNH has often been explained by its four pillars: good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation. Lately the four pillars have been further classified into nine domains in order to create widespread understanding of GNH and to reflect the holistic range of GNH values. The nine domains are: psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards. The domains represents each of the components of wellbeing of the Bhutanese people, and the term ‘wellbeing’ here refers to fulfilling conditions of a ‘good life’ as per the values and principles laid down by the concept of Gross National Happiness.
What else did the GNH Index reveal about happy people? Here are some highlights:
- Men are happier than women on average.
- Of the nine domains, Bhutanese have the most sufficiency in health, then ecology, psychological wellbeing, and community vitality.
- In urban areas, 50% of people are happy; in rural areas it is 37%.
- Urban areas do better in health, living standards and education. Rural areas do better in community vitality, cultural resilience, and good governance.
- Happiness is higher among people with a primary education or above than among those with no formal education, but higher education does not affect GNH very much.
- The happiest people by occupation include civil servants, monks/anim, and GYT/DYT members. Interestingly, the unemployed are happier than corporate employees, housewives, farmers or the national work force.
- Unmarried people and young people are among the happiest.
- There is quite a lot of equality across Dzongkhags, so there is not a strict ranking among them. The happiest Dzongkhags include Paro, Sarpang, Dagana, Haa, Thimphu, Gasa, Tsirang, Punakha, Zhemgang, and Chukha.
- The least happy Dzongkhag was SamdrupJonkhar.
- The ranking of dzongkhags by GNH differs significantly from their ranking by income per capita. Sarpang, Dagana, and even Zhemgang for example, do far better in GNH than in income.
- In terms of numbers, the highest number of happy people live in Thimphu and Chukha – as do the highest number of unhappy people!
- Thimphu is better in education and living standards than other Dzongkhags, but worse in community vitality.