Posts Tagged ‘quality of life’

While away on a trip to Japan recently I came across a news item about Bhutan’s development of a national happiness index. I’d read about this a few years ago and thought it was interesting but maybe just a gimmick or a passing fancy. I think it was the King of Bhutan who decided that instead of measuring and reporting the “GDP” (“Gross Domestic Product”) of the country each year, it would be more useful to measure and report the “GNH” (“Gross National Happiness”). Well, apparently others, including the IMF asked the rulers of Bhutan exactly how they thought they could measure such a thing, and this has encouraged a wide-ranging and elaborate process of developing and experimenting with “tools” to measure the GNH.
They decided that happiness involved significant achievements in each of nine core dimensions of which happiness and well-being were constituted.

1.    Psychological Well-being
2.   Time Use
3.   Community Vitality
4.   Culture
5.   Health
6.   Education
7.   Environmental Diversity
8.   Living Standard
9.   Governance
Each of these domains is made up a number of indicators and you can read descriptions of each of these dimensions and their indicators here

This work is way too vast to reproduce in a blog post but I encourage you to follow the link to the Bhutan government’s site about this and have a browse. The range of questions they ask is astonishing, comprehensive and holistic. They have a distinct cultural flavour which is appropriate to Bhutan but the general principles are certainly transferrable to other cultures. What fascinates me is the emphasis given by the this approach on the subjective experiences of the population. It seems a serious attempt to put the sum of personal experience above the sum of material goods and wealth.

When I returned home, I stumbled on the “New Economics Foundation”  who have produced an interesting report entitled “National Accounts of Well-being” which compares quality of life indices across 22 European countries. This work covers some similar domains to the Bhutan work, but it reads almost like a subset of that latter project. In particular they consider Personal well-being, Social well-being and Work well-being. Social well-being is split into Supportive relationships and Trust and belonging, whilst Personal well-being is split into Emotional well-being, Satisfying life, Vitality, Resilience and self-esteem, and Positive functioning (each of which are further subdivided)
The results of this European work can be explored in a fascinating interactive website here

I find both of these projects fascinating. They demonstrate serious attempts to value human experience over that of indicators of material production and consumption. What do you think?

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