Measuring Happiness and Well-Being


The UN Secretary-General has released a note on “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development”. This report gathers the views of Member States and international organizations on the identification of indicators for the “pursuit of happiness and well-being.”

The report was invited by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in its resolution 65/309, in which it recognized that gross domestic product (GDP) does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people. Reflecting recent research on happiness and well-being, the Note highlights national, regional, and international initiatives for the creation of broader measures of economic and social progress.

Addressing the challenges of measuring happiness, such as the difficulties of making individual and cross-cultural comparisons, the report reasserts the importance of focusing on new indicators of well-being “in the face of persistent, extreme poverty and global warming.” It suggests that the combination of both subjective and evaluative data on life satisfaction is one of the best policy-orientated methods for measuring well-being. National and regional initiatives to measure happiness include those by Bhutan, France, Italy, Japan, Qatar, the UK, and the EU.

Overall, the note recommends that governments develop new methods for fostering well-being beyond GDP growth. This could include better integration of economic and social policies, the development of specific environmental policies, and policy indicators that promote sustainable development. A final recommendation suggests consultations with a wide range of stakeholders to create happiness indicators containing a shared view of social progress, to be collectively achieved and sustained over time. [Publication: Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development] [UNGA Resolution 65/309]