The term Gross National Happiness originated in the 1970s when the King of Bhutan said that ‘Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product’. From that time, Gross National Happiness has been the focal point that drives Bhutan’s social and economic policy, as they seek to create a holistic reflection of the wellbeing of the people of Bhutan measured by the Gross National Happiness Index.

Happiness has long been an important attainment for the people of Bhutan and in 1629, Bhutan’s legal code stated that “if the government cannot create happiness for its people, then there is no purpose for government to exist.” In the early 1970s, when the 4th King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, questioned whether the measurement of Gross Domestic Product would show a true reflection of the happiness and wellbeing of a nation, he felt that the main focus of Bhutan’s social and economic policy should be on the elements that increase the happiness and wellbeing of his country. As such, he coined the phrase, Gross National Happiness (GNH).

The aim of GNH is to create a balance in all aspects of life that are essential for people’s happiness and to take a holistic approach to measuring the happiness of people. GNH centres on 4 pillars:

Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development

Environmental conservation

Good governance and the preservation

Promotion of culture.

These are underpinned by the 9 domains of GNH: living standards, education, health, environment, community vitality, time use, psychological wellbeing, good governance and cultural resilience and promotion.

Having introduced programmes into Bhutan based on the 4 pillars and 9 domains, the government created the GNH Index to measure the happiness and wellbeing of their citizens. GNH seeks to overcome the challenges that individuals and countries face and focuses on the non-material origins of happiness and wellbeing, a concept that is now being adopted by other countries around the world as they look to implement the programmes that Bhutan have developed to promote GNH.

Find out more about GNH