The phrase "gross national happiness" was first coined by the 4th King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1972 when he declared, "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product." The concept implies that sustainable development should take a holistic approach towards notions of progress and give equal importance to non-economic aspects of wellbeing.
Since then the idea of Gross National Happiness (GNH) has influenced Bhutan's economic and social policy, and also captured the imagination of others far beyond its borders. In creating the Gross National Happiness Index, Bhutan sought to create a measurement tool that would be useful for policymaking and create policy incentives for the government, NGOs and businesses of Bhutan to increase GNH.
The GNH Index includes both traditional areas of socio-economic concern such as living standards, health and education and less traditional aspects of culture and psychological wellbeing. It is a holistic reflection of the general wellbeing of the Bhutanese population rather than a subjective psychological ranking of "happiness" alone.
The GNH Index includes nine domains
The Government of Bhutan’s Centre for Bhutan Studies revised and released an updated GNH index in 2011. There are 33 indicators in the 9 domains above and the Index seeks to measure the nation's wellbeing directly by starting with each person's achievements in each indicator.
In 2011, the UN unanimously adopted a General Assembly resolution, introduced by Bhutan with support from 68 member states, calling for a "holistic approach to development" aimed at promoting sustainable happiness and wellbeing. This was followed in April 2012 by a UN High-Level Meeting on "Happiness and Wellbeing: Defining a New Economic Paradigm" designed to bring world leaders, experts and civil society and spiritual leaders together to develop a new economic paradigm based on sustainability and wellbeing. This builds on the Government of Bhutan’s pioneering work to develop the GNH Index.