GNH: The happiest people in Bhutan are those that are better educated, and despite spending less time working compared to their less happier compatriots, still earn high incomes, the 2015 GNH survey has found.

While the findings may seem obvious at first, the survey tracked a range of contributing factors and compared the habits of the happiest people in Bhutan with the unhappiest.

The survey found that a little over eight percent of the Bhutanese population are “deeply happy” as compared to almost nine percent who are unhappy.

By occupation, deeply happy people were found in all kinds of professions. Topping the list were members of the local government, monks and nuns, civil servants, corporate employees, and business people.

In comparison, the unhappiest people were found to be mostly comprised of farmers, women, and the elderly.

As evident by their occupations, deeply happy people are better educated with an average of 6.5 years of formal schooling compared to only 1.1 years for unhappy people.

Deeply happy people were found to have more leisure time and slept longer. They spent an average of 6 hours and 18 minutes working per day while the unhappy worked for 9 hours and 16 minutes on average. As a result they also suffered less stress.

They also made more money. The deeply happy have an annual income of around Nu 387,000 compared to Nu 102,000 for the unhappy.

But the deeply happy were also found to have higher debt levels amounting to around Nu 234,000, as compared to around Nu 66,000 for the unhappy.

The happy also have easier access to medical health services and as a result enjoyed more healthy days than the unhappy. The deeply happy people live a 42 minute walk away from the nearest health care centre while the unhappy are 107 minutes away. The deeply happy also enjoy 29.5 healthy days as opposed to 25.4 for the unhappy.

The deeply happy also contribute more days to volunteering and donate more of their household income for causes.

“Although the data needs to be interpreted with caution, it seems unhappy people spend a lot more time attending religious teachings compared to deeply happy people,” Centre for Bhutan Studies President, Dasho Karma Ura said. “This is true also of attendance of social cultural events,” Dasho said. “Unhappy people spend more days in socio-cultural events like tshechu and rabney,” he added. “Attendance of teachings and community festivals seems to be drawing comparatively more unhappy and poorer people.”

In terms of age, a deeply happy person is around 39 years old while an unhappy one is around 46 years, entering the phase of a mid-life crisis. Dasho Karma Ura said that the mid-life crisis does affect the deeply happy as well but they fully recover by around age 55.

Some of the findings are very obvious such as deeply happy people having higher levels of positive emotions and low levels of negative ones. Deeply happy people are also more satisfied with life.

The deeply happy can be found in every dzongkhag but Gasa, Tsirang, Bumthang, and Paro, have a higher proportion of them.

Compared to the 2010 survey, the number of deeply happy people have increased while the number of unhappy have decreased.

The 2015 survey covers 7,153 people aged 15-96.

By Gyalsten K Dorji