Bhutan Really is the Happiest Country in the World?

What makes Bhutan so happy? According to the World Happiness Report (WHR) 2019, Bhutan built its economy around principles of happiness and well-being, not economical factors, such as it was done by virtually every other country in the world. 

By doing so, Bhutan developed in completely different fashion, not looking great economically speaking, but still ranking high in terms of what really matters for people, which is their sense of happiness.

Bhutan was voted as the happiest country in the world.

Ultimately, this investment into national well-being paid off, making Bhutan the world’s leading voice on the topic of policy around the topic of happiness, gradually replacing money-centered GDP based views of the economy.

Bhutan is Happier Than Finland?

Bhutan is ranked 95th happiest country in the world (out of 156 countries) according to the 2021 World Happiness Report. According to the same report, Finland is the number 1 happiest country in the world, but this statistic can be misleading. After all, happiness, as it is calculated using WHR takes into consideration primarily socio-economic factors, such as:

Bhutan is happier than Finland
  • Income
  • Healthy life expectancy
  • Having someone to count on in times of trouble
  • Generosity
  • Freedom and trust
  • Absence of corruption in business and government

WHR, however, doesn’t measure factors like: 

  • How much people smile
  • How much they actually enjoy their lives
  • Social inclusion
  • Overall health of population
  • Lack of psychological issues (such as, stress, anxiety, and depression)
  • National levels suicide, and more.

If these factors were actually measured, we would have a completely different ranking, with Bhutan being one of the happiest countries in the world and Finland losing its four year leading title as the #1 happiest country in the world.

Moreover, make no mistake, Finland is not a leading voice on a topic of happiness on the international stage—Bhutan is. This is why economies all over the world are looking up to the 95th happiest country in the world for advice on what they should do to improve their economies.

Yet, unfortunately for most countries in the world, they made irreversible decisions, which make it impossible to become a country like Bhutan, while Bhutan it still claiming that it can be able to be like any other country in the world.

Ultimately, there are no easy answers. The road to happiness will be long and full of bumps. The end result won’t be in the same as happiness in Bhutan. It certainly won’t be the same as if countries focused on happiness as their main economic growth indicator from very start, such as it was done in Bhutan. Still, happiness is possible. The rest of the world just needs to understand what are their best and worst practices and adopt them to make the most out of their economies.

Luckily, we Bhutan is more than interested in make this world the happiest it can be, not only for its own citizens, but everyone else. It is offering its several decade long experience to anyone who will listen as their understand that we are all living in the interlinked world where everyones decisions affect everyone else. I just hope that our governments will listen to what Bhutan has to say.

Happiness-Centered Model of Economy

Richard Easterlin, professor of economics at the University of Southern California, confirms the urgent need to move away from money-centered model of economy to a happiness-based model of economy stating that economic growth has failed to make use happier since the 50th.

He reaching this disturbing conclusion after looking at national levels of income (GDP) and corresponding levels of national happiness for different countries and income groups, across different periods of time. He proved that while living standards have been progressively growing all over the world, there was no corresponding growth in happiness, or at least it wasn’t that accentuated.

In other words, if money maters, but only to a limited extend, and for majority of the developed nations reached this limit in the 50th, so why are we still chasing money?

Bhutan and Happiness: What we Need to Know

Bhutan and Happiness

Bhutan is a country in the Himalayan mountains with a population of about 4.3 million people. It is situated in the southern part of the Kingdom of Bhutan and mostly surrounded by Tibet, India and China. The main language spoken is Lhoka.

Bhutan officially joined the United Nations (UN) in 1976 and it remains one of the UN’s most active members especially on issues related to sustainable development, human rights, refugees, gender equality and sustainable economic development. 

Today, this small country has become one of the most influential voices in its field as it has been named as “the Happiest Country in the World” by BBC News series named “The World’s Happiest Countries”. 

Bhutan is the Happiest Country in the World According to GNH

In order to replace Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Bhutan developed Gross National Happiness (GNH) score, which indicates a country’s level of happiness. This score was calculated based on data from Gallup World Poll surveys using questionnaires from more than 15,000 residents throughout a given country. GNH scores are calculated as follows:

Global Rank = Total Score –(Global Rank + 10)/100; Global Rank = Global Rank – 1; Global Rank = 100 (highest value). GNH Score = Total Score –(Global Rank +10)/100; GNH Score = GNH Score –1; GNH Score = 100 (highest value).

The result shows that Bhutan’s average GNH score is 7.59. The next highest country’s average GNH score was 7.62 while the lowest was 5.36. Based on this information, it would be reasonable to say that Bhutan has a relatively high level of happiness but it does not have an absolute happy rating and its level of happiness may vary depending on location, living conditions and culture.

Bhutan’s Human Development Index (HDI)

Bhutans happiness is measured by Human Development Index (HDI) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

In 2017, Human Development Index (HDI) was released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to measure well-being around the world. The HDI measures life expectancy at birth, education rates among children below age 15 years, per capita income and availability of clean drinking water and sanitation facilities.

The HDI for Bhutan was 117 points higher than other Asian countries such as Nepal at 829 points, Bangladesh at 627 points, and Thailand at 531 points. Based on this information, it would be reasonable to say that Bhutan has a relatively high level of well-being but there could be inconsistencies in its indicators because it did not come under UNDP’s criteria or what they consider are objective indicators such as gross national income or GDP.

Gross national income or GDP refers to money earned by a nation’s economy based on how much goods are sold versus how much goods are produced or labor employed in order to make goods or services available for sale in

Bhutan: The Country of Untouched Beauty

Bhutan: The Country of Untouched Beauty

Bhutan is a country in the Himalayan mountains. It has a long history of Buddhism and was established as a kingdom in the 10th century. It became one of the first countries to receive official recognition from the United Nations (UN).

The country is home to one of the largest Buddhist populations in the world, with about 70% of its population practicing their religion.

In 2016 Bhutan was ranked as the Happiest Country in the World by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2018 Global Happiness Report.

There are over 100 national parks, including Gopeng and Tashiding, which are home to snow leopards and ibex (hardy goats), while many mountains offer opportunities for trekking, climbing and mountaineering.

Bhutan also boasts one of Asia’s longest running dry seasons, when temperatures drop below freezing for an entire month. During this period farmers do not cultivate their crops; instead they pick wild herbs and vegetables.

This means that Bhutanese food is hearty, unprocessed, healthy food, with no added salt or sugar. Most hot drinks are plain water or tea with a few spices added to make it more palatable. Some people don’t like this tradition because they believe that drinking without adding any nutrients makes them sicker.

When you visit Bhutan there will be no need to ask directions; you will simply follow your nose and your gut instinct once you get there.

You’ll find that Bhutan offers some of the world’s best hiking routes; spectacular white-water rivers; breathtaking landscapes; pristine lakes; rivers teeming with life; fascinating cultural traditions; sacred monasteries; breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains framed by lush valleys.

Roman Russo

Roman Russo

Roman Russo is the founder, main author, and Chief Happiness Officer at Optimal Happiness. He is also the author of Optimal Happiness: The Fastest & Surest Way to Reach Your Happiest Potential, a revolutionary book about becoming the happiest version we can be. After studying this topic for over 8 years Roman believes that everyone can reach their happiest potential, challenging people to reach these highs. Are you ready to accept this challenge?

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