Members of Bhutan's government, sitting round a table examining their happiness index.

Bhutan’s Gross happiness index

The Gross National Happiness (GNH) index is a measure of the holistic well-being of the population of Bhutan, a small Himalayan country that prioritizes happiness over economic growth. The concept of GNH was coined by the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1972, and was later enshrined in the constitution of Bhutan in 2008 (Gross National Happiness, n.d.). The GNH index is based on 33 indicators that cover nine domains of happiness, such as psychological well-being, health, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards (Gross National Happiness Index, n.d.). The GNH index is constructed using a multidimensional methodology that identifies the people who are happy, narrowly happy, extensively happy, or unhappy based on their achievements in the indicators (Ura et al., 2012). The GNH index aims to capture the diverse and complex aspects of human happiness that go beyond economic development and material wealth.

The nine domains are used to influence government policy in Bhutan by providing a comprehensive framework for assessing the impact of policies on the happiness of the people. The GNH index is used as a screening tool to evaluate whether a policy proposal is aligned with the GNH values and principles. The policy proposal is rated on a scale of 0 to 100 for each of the nine domains, and the average score is calculated to determine the overall GNH value of the policy. The policy proposal is then classified into one of four categories: high GNH value, medium GNH value, low GNH value or negative GNH value. The higher the GNH value of a policy proposal, the more likely it is to be approved and implemented (Ura et al., 2012).

The GNH index is also used as a monitoring tool to track the progress of Bhutan in achieving its development goals. The GNH index is calculated every five years based on a national survey that covers a representative sample of the population. The survey collects data on various aspects of well-being related to the nine domains. The results of the survey are then aggregated and weighted to produce a single number that represents the overall level of happiness in Bhutan. The GNH index can be disaggregated by various dimensions, such as gender, age, region and occupation, to identify the areas that need improvement or attention (Ura et al., 2012).

The GNH index is a unique and innovative approach to measuring and promoting well-being that goes beyond conventional indicators such as GDP. The index reflects the holistic and multidimensional nature of happiness and captures the values and aspirations of the Bhutanese people. The index also provides a useful tool for guiding and evaluating government policies that aim to enhance the quality of life of the citizens.


Gross National Happiness. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 5, 2024, from

Gross National Happiness Index. (n.d.). Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Retrieved February 5, 2024, from

Ura, K., Alkire, S., Zangmo, T., & Wangdi, K. (2012). An extensive analysis of GNH index. Thimphu: Centre for Bhutan Studies.



Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to content