Happiness level decreased in areas like psychological wellbeing, community, and driglam namzha 

Survey: The provisional findings of the latest Gross National Happiness (GNH) survey show that 91.2 percent of Bhutanese are happy, it was revealed at the opening of the International GNH conference in Paro, yesterday.

The GNH index, used to provide a reliable, comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the country’s overall situation and progress, is moderately higher at 0.756 this year, as compared to 0.743 in 2010.

The GNH Index is a multi-dimensional and survey-based measure of wellbeing and happiness of the Bhutanese population.

GNH in Bhutan has increased by 1.8 percent since the last survey carried out five years ago, according to the Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) and GNH Research.

Of those found to be happy, 8.4 percent of Bhutanese are categorised as being “deeply happy”, 35 percent as “extensively happy”, and 47.9 percent as “narrowly happy”. A little under nine percent of Bhutanese are unhappy.

The percentage of deeply and extensively happy people has increased from 40.9 percent to 43.4 percent.

CBS describes “narrowly happy” as someone enjoying sufficient achievements in between half and two-thirds of the GNH domains, and deeply or extensively happy, if it is two-thirds or more.

There are nine domains in GNH that cover psychological wellbeing, community, culture, governance, knowledge, health, living conditions (which includes income), time use, and harmony with the environment.

The goal is to have sufficiency in all domains. “The aim is for all Bhutanese to be extensively or deeply happy,” a CBS press release says. “Bhutan is closer to achieving that aim in 2015 than it was in 2010”.

The improvement in GNH is a result of improved living standards and service delivery, better health, and more participation in cultural festivals, says CBS.

Despite the overall increase in GNH, in some indicators there were significant reductions in sufficiency. “But there were also decreases in psychological wellbeing, in which anger and frustration increased and spirituality decreased, and community, in which people’s sense of belonging and their donations of time and money decreased, and the traditional etiquette of courtesy, Driglam Namzha, also seems to have weakened,” CBS points out in its press release. “That is why, overall, the increase in GNH is moderate,” it is added.

“The 2015 GNH Index provides a self-portrait of a society in flux, and offers Bhutanese the opportunity to reflect on the directions society is moving, and make wise and determined adjustments,” CBS and GNH Research President, Dasho Karma Ura, said.

The 2015 findings show that men are happier than women, with 51 percent of men being happy compared to only 39 percent of women.

It has also been found that urbanites are happier than their rural counterparts. Fifty five percent of urbanites are happy compared to only 38 percent of those living in rural areas.

More education means more happiness. Only 32 percent of those without a formal education were happy as compared to over 60 percent of those having at least a high school education.

The happiest dzongkhags in Bhutan are Bumthang, Gasa, and Paro.

Getting married could decrease your happiness if you go by the GNH findings. Happiness was highest for those who had never married, including monks. But married people were still happier than those that are widowed, divorced or separated.

Alarmingly, it was found that farmers in Bhutan have the lowest levels of GNH, lower even than the unemployed. Low GNH was also found among stay at home spouses. Compared to 2010, GNH had increased only “somewhat” for farmers and the unemployed.

However, it is also pointed out that changes in GNH show broadly equalizing trends with groups that had lower GNH in 2010, such as women, farmers, the uneducated, and the elderly, having higher rates of improvement in their GNH. “The only exception was that GNH rose faster in urban than in rural areas,” CBS says.

Some other notable findings in the survey show that despite improvements in service delivery, the people’s satisfaction with the government’s performance in employment, equality, education, health, anti-corruption, environment and culture, has decreased in 2015, among both men and women, and in all dzongkhags.

However, it is reasoned by CBS that in 2010, only two years after the country’s transition to a democracy, “satisfaction with government performance was euphoric”, and that since then the people’s expectations of a democratic government had evolved. “So this indicator carries a light weight,” it is said.

However, it is also pointed out that two other government indicators, perception of rights and people’s participation in meetings and intention to vote, have worsened.

Overall the contribution of governance to GNH has declined.

The contribution of community to overall wellbeing has also decreased. The percentage of people trusting their neighbours and having a sense of belonging to their communities has dropped by 11 percent. Family relationships and perceptions of safety from crime and violence has also dropped, but by a smaller margin.

The 2015 survey covers 7,153 people aged 15-96. Interviews took place between January to May this year and were conducted by six survey teams that travelled to all 20 dzongkhags. The survey included 148 questions and each interview took about an hour and a half to be completed.

The findings of the GNH survey 2015 can be found on the GNH website (www.grossnationalhappiness.com).

Gyalsten K Dorji