Published in: Karma Ura & Karma, Galay (Eds.) 'Gross national happiness and development', Proceedings of the first international seminar on ‘Operationalization of Gross National Happiness’, Center of Bhutan Studies, Thimphu, Bhutan, 2004, ISBN 99936-14-19-X, pp. 287-318<
Happiness is defined as the degree to which a person enjoys his or her life-as-a-whole. Accordingly ‘Gross National Happiness’ is defined as the degree to which citizens in a country enjoy the life they live. Individual happiness can be measured by self-report on a single standard question. Hence Gross National Happiness can be measured by the average response to such questions in general populations surveys.
Survey data on average self-report of happiness can be combined with estimates of life-expectancy based on civil registration. The resulting index denotes how long and happy people live in a country and can be expressed in a number of Happy-Life-Years (HLY).
Comparison across present day nations shows huge differences on this indicator, HLY varying between 63 (Switzerland) and 21 (Moldavia). About 80% of these differences can be explained by variation in societal characteristics, such as economic development, political democracy and mutual trust. HLY varies also over time. During the last decade it rose in western nations but plunged in the former Soviet nations.
It is argued that HLY is the best available indicator of Gross National Happiness.