UK Prime Minister David Cameron has often spoken about the necessity of  increasing the level of general well-being of citizens.

Speaking at the Google Zeitgeist Europe conference a few days ago he said that


 “It’s time we admitted that there’s more to life than money and it’s time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – general wellbeing. …………Improving our society’s sense of wellbeing is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times.”

And to this end, recognising the need to first gauge the existing level of wellbeing in UK society, he has asked The Office for National Statistics to quantify wellbeing.

Over the coming months  the country’s statisticians will devise a set of questions to measure Britons’ subjective quality of life.”

These responses will form the basis of a new gauge that will be published at regular intervals,  perhaps alongside figures on gross domestic product (GDP).

Inclusion of wellbeing in measuring progress, would perhaps increase the value of benefits of environmentally friendly projects, among others.

The UK is not the first nation to adopt this way of measuring the progress of its society, though.

 India’s close neighbour, Bhutan, uses an index of Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than the GDP, to measure its development.

The GNH forms the basis of Bhutan’s five year planning process — it is the responsibility of the state to create an environment so that citizens can be happy — and is based on four pillars: sustainable development, preservation of culture, conservation of environment, and good governance.

I find this an intriguing concept. How wonderful it would be if we could measure the contentedness or wellbeing of society and formulate policies which would increase it.

 But is it really possible to measure wellbeing or happiness?

A former Cardiff University lecturer, Dr Cliff Arnall, says that it is.

Attaching numbers to factors usually considered immeasurable, he has created a happiness formula: O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He.

O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He.

O – being outdoors

N – nature

S – social interaction

Cpm – childhood summer memories

T – temperature

He –  holiday excitement

Using this formula he says it is possible to calculate when things which make us feel good will be at their greatest value– in effect, when our happiness will be at its highest point. By his calculation-

“The third Friday in June came out with the highest rating due to peaking happiness factors such as warm summer evenings outdoors, seeing friends more frequently, and excitement about holidays.”

So, what do you think?

Do you think it is possible to measure happiness? Would the factors adding up to happiness be the same for all persons?

Some people would give more weightage to fine weather, some to availability of good books. Some would value good working conditions, while others would give more importance to family life.

And assuming we did adopt a formula for happiness, would our Indian government implement policies so that the Gross National Happiness of India would be maximised?

What do you think?