“Happiness is within, but not within you alone as it is among us. If we can create happiness in a community, then we will be able to attain happiness as individuals,” observed Saamdu Chetri speaking at the International Psychological Congress last week.

Chetri is head of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Centre, which developed the Gross National Happiness Index.

The phrase “Gross National Happiness” was first mentioned in 1972 by the 4th King of Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in an interview with the Financial Times. King Wangchuck said that, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” The GNH became part of Bhutan’s Constitution in 2008, and the first Index report came out in 2012.

The GNH’s nine domains appear in this wheel diagram. Underneath these nine measures are 124 variables which, taken together, represent the multi-dimensions of human well-being.

The Bhutan “good government” and other organizations use the GNH Index to either, “increase the percentage of people who are happy or decrease the insufficient conditions of people who are not-yet-happy,” a short guide to the GNH Index explains.

Here’s more on the history of the GNH Index.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  I stayed away from Sunday morning news shows yesterday, shell-shocked from the triple whammy of letter bombs, the Kentucky attack on African-Americans at Kroger and threatened black churchgoers, and the murders of eleven congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh which has operated for over 150 years.

By 4 am this morning, I could deal with catching up with the news shows, and tuned into Kasie DC which was broadcast over the weekend. Kasie Hunt was interviewing Rick Tyler on the state of American politics and voters at this moment in our history. Tyler, who was  national spokesman for Ted Cruz’s 2016 Presidential Campaign, said that we in America need to, quote, “radicalize kindness.”

Tyler then talked about his wife and daughter, who are both teachers. In their classrooms, they bring students together in an inclusive way. The intent is, ultimately, to help raise up children to be adults who feel they belong in their communities, in society-at-large.

Look at the Bhutan GNH Happiness Index wheels. I bundle these into three categories:

  • Community vitality, education, cultural diversity and resilience, ecological diversity and resilience, time use, living standards
  • Health, psychological well-being
  • Good governance.

In the context of social determinants of health, I look to the first line items that underpin the second two outcomes: physical health and psychological well-being. Check out any of the many excellent SDOH reports I’ve covered here in Health Populi, such as Aetna Healthy Communities, the Blue Zones, and the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, among others.

The third category, a single domain, lives on its own because it’s fundamental: good governance. Two words that have been used to explain good governance are “equilibrium” and “inclusion.”

A recent article in the BMJ talks about “Valuing health as development: going beyond gross domestic product.” In the essay, the authors (who all come out of public health schools) discuss developing alternative well-being measures beyond a nation’s GDP. “We need to teach our children and the rest of society that accumulation of wealth and money is not everything. We need to show that a developed society in which citizens are educated with the freedoms and capabilities to pursue happiness, which are not necessarily at odds with national GDP growth, but in support of it, is possible,” the authors say.

I leave you with two thoughts: first, this list of the eleven victims from the Pittsburgh shooting – they ranged in age from 54 to 97.

Joyce Fienberg, 75

Richard Gottfried, 65

Rose Mallinger, 97

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66

Cecil Rosenthal, 59

David Rosenthal, 54

Bernice Simon, 84

Sylvan Simon, 86

Daniel Stein, 71

Melvin Wax, 88,

Irving Younger, 69