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Throwback: The Trouble With Measuring Happiness

On the difficulty of measuring happiness, after the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network published its World Happiness Report 2015, which ranked Singapore as the 24th happiest country out of 158 around the world.

Regressions to explain national average happiness (Image Credit: the World Happiness Report 2015 / Screenshot).

Regressions to explain national average happiness (Image Credit: the World Happiness Report 2015 / Screenshot).

Read “The Trouble With Measuring Happiness“, and here’s a short excerpt:

“It could be further argued that – notwithstanding these limitations, of yes-no questions for example – these socio-economic indicators do not correlate well with “happiness” in the first place.

The interest with happiness as an indicator for national development can be traced to the Bhutanese concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), crafted in response to the use of Gross Domestic Product – an aggregate measurement of national income – to determine standards of living. In this vein researchers generally use two broad methodologies to measure the levels of happiness around the world: surveys with citizens (as it was with the 2012 Gallup survey and a 2013 national workplace survey which found employees to be “Under Happy”), or indices which score countries based on multiple statistics (such as the Happy Planet Index and other country indices, including in Bhutan). The World Happiness Report by the SDSN appears to be a mix of both.

These methods may differ, but ultimately the aim of academic research is to challenge the conventional wisdom of using economic indicators to ascertain the growth of a country. The UN has challenged governments to consider sustainable development, cultural values, conservation, and good governance when assessing process. And Singapore should – beyond arbitrary concerns of whether its citizens are “happy” or “unhappy” – take the lead.”

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


2 thoughts on “Throwback: The Trouble With Measuring Happiness

  1. In my opinion, the measurement of ‘happiness’ is a controversial issue. How can someone estimate the satisfaction of life in a very general manner. What is true for one country is considered false for the second one. There are also lot’s of external factors that make an impact on the situation, which has nothing to do with the government and country sustainability, like the weater conditions. It warmer countries people feel happier, rather then in cold one. So are this facts are taken into the account?
    To be honest, it will be easier to measure the level of unhappines. People always complain more.

    Posted by Olga | March 1, 2016, 10:50 am
    • Actually that’s the problem with most indices too, not just “happiness” methinks. Identifying the right indicators which are significant and comparable is not as straightforward as mooted – agreed.

      Jin Yao

      Posted by guanyinmiao | March 1, 2016, 3:32 pm

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