CBS questions credibility of reports

The centre is of the opinion that the happiness and well-being reports may not reflect ground realities in Bhutan

Survey: The Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) has questioned the credibility of two recent reports that ranked Bhutan poorly when it comes to well being and moderately for happiness.

CBS has also contacted one of the research companies to release their raw data for peer review.


The Country Well-Being Rankings 2014 report by the American research company, Gallup, ranked Bhutan 144 out of 145 countries. The rankings provide an overview of global citizens’ well being as measured by the Gallup-Healthways global well-being index.

Healthways is an American well-being improvement company.

The World Happiness Report 2015 compiled by a group of researchers drawing on Gallup World Poll data from the past five years, ranked Bhutan 79 out of 153 countries. The issue of Bhutan being ranked moderately was even discussed in parliament by some members, while the prime minister said it should not really be a concern.

“Recently a handful of National Assembly members lamented about the moderate ranking of Bhutan in the World Happiness Report 2015. The 2015 Gallup well-being ranking of Bhutan is very low and this might add to their confused postures,” CBS president Dasho Karma Ura said.

The president said questions on the credibility of the two reports needs to be asked. “Do they reflect the reality?” he said. “They would if they resulted from systematic data from internationally comparable survey run also in Bhutan. Neither have done surveys that anybody knows in Bhutan.”

He added it is important to know if a valid and representative sample size of Bhutanese were polled, who these respondents may have been, who interviewed these respondents, and when and where these interviews occurred. “Interviewing a few will totally prejudice the results, if a representative sample is not polled,” he said, adding that telephone and online interviews can also result in skewed data.

Dasho Karma Ura also said it is also important to know if the questions were designed or adapted for Bhutan’s context and cultural influences. “If not, this too can introduce bias and errors,” he said.

“The credibility of both reports can be challenged and contested on these grounds. Their data set should be released for peer review,” Dasho Karma Ura said. “As Gallup’s ranking of Bhutan is extremely questionable, indeed roguish, I wrote to Gallup to seek clarification, but no replies have been received yet.”

Referring to the discussion among parliamentarians on the recent report on happiness, Dasho Karma Ura said that the methodology of calculating the GNH index is not the same as the subjective well being ones used for the World Happiness Report nor Gallup’s indicator on well-being. “GNH survey is far more comprehensive,” he said.

The Gallup questionnaire includes 10 statements and responses are rated on a scale of one to five. The statements cover five areas: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. For instance, the respondent would rate a statement such as “In the last seven days, you have worried about money” with a score of one to five, with one being strongly disagreeing and five meaning strongly agreeing.

Dasho Karma Ura said that in addition to questioning if an adequate sample size was polled by Gallup, the centre might not agree that the questions or statements track well being in Bhutan, given the economic and cultural setting of the country. He pointed out that the way questions are asked in the GNH surveys differ from the Gallup ones.

Dasho Karma Ura said some of the findings in the last GNH survey conducted in 2010, based on a sample size of 7,146 respondents, that is representative of not only the country but district populations, could be referred to by Gallup (see box).

The Gallup 2014 well-being report ranked Bhutan dead last or 145th out of 145 countries, behind countries like Afghanistan, when it comes to the community and physical elements. Community is described as liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in your community, while the physical element is having good health and enough energy to get things done daily.

“Residents in Bhutan have the lowest community and physical well-being globally, with only five percent and six percent of Bhutanese thriving in these categories respectively,” it is stated in the report.

In comparison, according to the GNH survey 2010, 76 percent of Bhutanese reported having good community relationships and 96 percent reported never having been a victim of a crime. Additionally, 74 percent reported good or very good health.
Afghanistan was the only other country Bhutan was found to have better a better overall well being than.

In the region, India was ranked 70th, following by Nepal at 77th, Bangladesh at 100th, and China at 127th, when it comes to well being.


Some findings of the GNH survey 2010

89%of Bhutanese either do not suffer from long term disability or those who are disable ones are not restricted from doing their daily activities

74% have reported their health status to be good or very good. 76% have sufficiency in healthy days (that is 76% have healthy days 26 or higher)

86% of Bhutanese have normal mental well-being

93% of Bhutanese report good family relationship

96% of Bhutanese have never been victims of crime

76% of Bhutanese report good community relationship

83% of Bhutanese have sufficiency in life satisfaction score

65% of Bhutanese report low negative emotions

59% of Bhutanese report high positive emotions.

Courtesy: CBS

 By Gyalsten K Dorji

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