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Gross National Happiness Timeline

Happiness Economics - Well-Being Economics
Historical Milestones



 Major Development


Policy and

Bhutan's King introduces the Gross National Happiness (GNH) philosophy at an international conference.

  • Bhutan's fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck coins the term GNH as a casual, offhand remark to assert that culture and spiritual affluence is more important than material affluence

  • Says that economic development can lead to poverty, environmental destruction, and loss of culture.

  • He signals his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan's unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values as opposed to the material values that commonly used GDP (Goss Domestic Product) policies.

  • Inspires a happiness movement in Bhutan and other countries

  • Note: Bhutan Struggled for more than thirty years to implement the happiness policy, due the subjective nature of happiness, overemphasis on spiritual and cultural values,  and lack of an economic measurement framework.

1981 Values Surveys

World Values Survey (WVS) is launched

  • A global research project starts survey in almost 100 countries.


Health and

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) introduces a related concept called the Human Development Index (HDI).

  • The report covers 169 countries based on HDI, developed by Former Pakistani Minister of Finance, Dr. Mahbub ul Haq

  • Indicators used: life expectancy at birth, literacy rate and education rate, and decent standard of living (GDP per capita)

  • Note: Although it improved on GDP it did not measure happiness and lacked on other well-being economic development dimensions



Redefining Progress - A US non-governmental organization releases Genuine Progress Index (GPI)

  • GDP is not enough to measure true prosperity because it measures only market value without considering social and environmental cost of market value.

  • Note: Although GPI was a better improvement on GDP it did not measure happiness and lacked on other other well-being economic development dimensions


Subjective Wellbeing Survey

MTCG - A European Non-Governmental organization demonstrate the social and psychological cost of civil war

  • Measures quality of life of a society based on additional metrics such as Education, Public Safety, Environment, Energy, Infrastructure, Health

  • Note: Although QoL is a much better improvement on GDP, it did not measure happiness and lacked on other other well-being economic development dimensions


Quality of Life

Calvert-Henderson (American Scholars) publish Quality of Life Indicators

  • Measures quality of life of a society based on additional metrics such as Education, Public Safety, Environment, Energy, Infrastructure, Health

  • Note: Although QoL is a much better improvement on GDP, it did not measure happiness and lacked on other other well-being economic development dimensions



A US Based International Institute of of Management Introduces Gross National Happiness Index - GNH Index

  • Inspired by the Bhutan GNH philosophy, a US based research institute introduced the first happiness economic development framework

  • Med Jones, president of the institute proposes a second generation GNH (GNH 2.0) that balances economic development goals with environmental and mental and physical well-being

  • Combined the complete dimensions of subjective measures (satisfaction) with objective measures (socioeconomic indicators)

  • Launched first Global GNH Index (Also called Gross National Well-Being Index GNW Index) based on measurement in seven categories

  • The GNH Index framework is offered royalty free allowing it be localized for countries, regions and cultures

  • The GNH Index become the basis of the future happiness indices and a new model for happiness economic development policies



International Institute of of Management  Publishes The American Pursuit of Happiness - A US Policy White paper

  • Advocates Bhutan's King GNH philosophy in general and call for the adoption of GNH Index in US and the west.

  • Provides economic and policy recommendations to increase the happiness and well being of the nation



New Economics Foundation (NEF) a UK based think tank published Happy Planet Index (HPI)

  • Measures happiness, by country.

  • Advocates for a transition from economic prosperity and resource depletion.

  • Index components: Life expectancy, life satisfaction, ecological footprint (instead of economic indicator).

  • Measures well-being delivered per unit of environmental impact.



Yale & Colombia Universities releases Environment Performance Index (EPI)

  • Center for Environmental Law & Policy at Yale University and Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University release EPI.

  • Covers 163 countries, measuring performance based on 25 indicators, including environmental health and air pollution, and 10 policies.

  • Compares and analyses how each country pursues environmental policies.

  • World Economic Forum and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre develop it jointly with Yale University and Columbia University.

Jul. 2007


Thailand releases Green and Happiness Index (GHI).

  • Public policy based on the philosophy of Sufficiency Economy, human-centered development, and vision of "Green and Happiness Society."

  • Consists of six components: health, warm and loving family, community empowerment, economic strength and equity, good quality environment and ecological system, and democratic society and good governance.

Nov. 2007


"Beyond GDP" international conference held

  • The European Commission (EC), European Parliament, OECD, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the Club of Rome organizes recognizes the necessity of new indices aside from GDP to tackle global issues such as climate change, poverty, and resource depletion, taking into account environmental and social aspects.

Feb. 2008


French President Nicolas Sarkozy creates Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (CMEPSP).

  • Address the dangers for democracy from the growing gap between people's sense of happiness in daily life, public policy and the resulting distrust of governments and politicians. Assign experts and to research and publish findings

2009 Indicator

Gallup Poll System in the US Launches Happiness Survey

  • In the United States, the Gallup poll system lunched the happiness survey in 2009 collecting data on national scale.The Gallup Well-Being Index was modeled after the Jones' GNH Index framework of 2005. The Well-Being Index score is an average of six sub-indexes that measures life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors , and access to basic necessities. In October 2009, the USA scored 66.1/100.

Sep. 2009


France release a"Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress"

  • Says it is important to rethink current GDP and shift the focus in economy to well-being, including health, education, and safety.

  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy says government's addiction to economic growth puts the Earth at risk

  • Joseph E. Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, and Jean-Paul Fitoussi publish a report on social progress



 Economic Intelligent Unit releases Global Peace Index 2009

  • Compares data from 144 countries.

  • Note: It is not a happiness index but peace does contribute to happiness

Jan. 2010


Center of Bhutan Studies launches the Bhutan GNH Index

  • Funded by International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada. the GNH survey report to be printed in May 2012.

  • Many of the Bhutan GNH indicators find their roots in Buddhism. Psychological well-being, for example, includes measures of meditation, prayer recitation, and taking account of Karma indicators

Nov. 2010


UK starts to discuss the necessity of introducing a new indicator.

  • The British PM Cameron: "It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB (general wellbeing).

  • The new index would indicate how people perceive happiness, be used for policy-making, and be based on regular surveys.

May 2011


Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launches "Better Life Index" (BLI)

Jul. 2011


UN General Assembly Resolution 65/309, titled "Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development"


Oct. 2011


Canadian Index of Wellbeing Network (CIW Network)  releases The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW)

  • Shows that Quality of Life does not match GDP increases


Oct. 2011


Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) releases "How's Life?" report

  • A report covers livelihoods and well-being in 40 countries, including its own member countries.

  • Part of the OECD's "Better Life Initiative," which analyses country situations in 11 areas: income, jobs, housing, health, work-life balance, education, social connections, civic engagement and governance, environment, personal security and subjective well-being.

Dec. 2011


"Asia-Pacific Conference on Measuring Well-Being and Fostering the Progress of Societies" Held in Tokyo

  • OECD, the Economic and Social Research Institute of Japan (ESRI), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Statistics Korea (KOSTAT) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) jointly organized the conference.

Apr. 2012


The United Nations April 2012 the first ever UN conference on Happiness took place in New York

Apr. 2012


The United Nations launches World Happiness Report

  • Published by the Earth Institute, Columbia University, the report shows top 4 happiest countries are Denmark, Norway, Finland, and the Netherlands.

May 2012

Indicator Update

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) updates Updates "Better Life Index"


July 2012

UN Resolution

UN Day of Happiness 

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which decreed that the International Day of Happiness was to be observed every year on 20 March. It was celebrated for the first time in 2013.


2011 Publishing

An Israeli Newspaper call for the adoption of GNH Economics

  • A leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz, published an article suggesting that western GDP economics is an incomplete development model and called for the adoption of Bhutan's GNH philosophy and Jones' GNH Index in Israel.
2012 Policy

John F. Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University publishes a paper calling for the implementation of GNH Economics in the US

  • A Report prepared for the US Congressman Hansen Clarke, R, Researchers Ben, Beachy and Juston Zorn, at John F. Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University, recommended that "the Congress should prescribe the broad parameters of new, carefully designed supplemental national indicators; it should launch a bipartisan commission of experts to address unresolved methodological issues, and include alternative indicators." They proposed that the government can use the survey results to see which well-being dimensions are least satisfied and which districts and demographic groups are most deficient, so as to allocate resources accordingly. The report lists the Gross National Happiness Index and its seven measurement area as one of the main frameworks to consider.
2012 Indicator

South Korea Launches its Own Happiness Index

  • South Korea Launched Happiness Index citing the GNH Index framework.
2012 Indicator Goa, India, Launches its Own Happiness Index
  • Government of Goa cited the GNH Index as a model for measuring happiness.
2012 Indicator Global Peace Indicator

In 2012 Professor Dr Peter T. Coleman, a world-renowned director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University, suggested that Jones' GNH Index initiative could inform the Global Peace Index Initiative GPI.

2012 Indicator

The City of Seattle Launches its Own Happiness Index

  • The city of Seattle in Washington, launched its own happiness index initiative, emphasizing measures similar to the GNH Index.
2013 Celebration

The International Day of Happiness observed on 20 March for the first time


2013 Indicator

Social Progress Index SPI Launched


2014 Indicator

Dubai, UAE Launches Happiness Index

The government of Dubai launched it's localized Happiness Index to measure the publicís contentment and satisfaction with different government services.

2014 Indicator

The United Kingdom publishes its own well-being and happiness statistics


Contributor(s): Majd Iohannes, GNH Institute

Sources: GNH Research Library



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