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What Role Does Happiness Play in the Global Economy? Why the Happy Planet Index Matters

Planet Earth from Apollo 17

What if you suddenly woke up in a world where natural disasters were celebrated, cancer cases applauded and terrorist attacks cheered on like a sporting event? What if you lived in a society where points were awarded every time a person died?

Well, you do. We all do. Every citizen of the global economy does—as long as our nations’ politics continue to be shaped by economic scales such as the GDP and the GNP. According to those systems of measurement, every death does not diminish. Rather, it puts another $1,000-dollar bill in the pocket of a shareholder. It shows up as a bump on the NASDAQ.

Now, imagine a world where success is measured not by the bottom line but instead by the happiness of its citizens. Nic Marks has done just that. As lead author of the new economics foundation’s (nef) Happy Planet Index, well-being researcher Marks helped develop the first global measure of sustainable well-being. Check out Nic’s introduction to the index here:


 
“We created the Happy Planet Index to highlight the tension between creating good lives now and good lives in the future,” says Marks. “Because we think that people should be happy and the planet should be happy, why don’t we create a measure of progress that shows that?”

The index measures the well-being of a nation’s people while taking into account the environmental impact of that nation, posing the question, “How much well-being do you get for your resources?”

The Buddhist country of Bhutan takes this question so seriously, its Centre for Bhutan Studies devised the Gross National Happiness index based on a term coined 40 years ago by fourth Dragon King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. This multidimensional measure of citizen happiness is linked with program screening tools, and its outcomes influence the development of future policies.

Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World two years in a row (2004, 2005), economist and author Jeffrey Sachs echoed the importance of evaluating happiness when he launched the first World Happiness Report at the UN in April. With northern European countries topping the list and sub-Saharan African nations showing up as least happy, the report reveals that wealth is just one of many contributing factors to happiness, political freedom and social support being among the other key factors.

Ready to make the world a better place by boosting your own happiness? You can start by practicing the nef’s Five Ways to Well-Being: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, and Give.

Wednesday
11
July 2012
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