Case for a national well-being index


Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Case for a national well-being index. Science and Spirit, 17(2), 36-37.


It should come as no surprise that people rank happiness, or what psychologists call "subjective well-being," ahead of money as a life goal. Happy people, those who frequently experience positive emotions like gratitude, love, and contentment, also are likely to have superior social relationships and better health, receive higher ratings at work, and make more money. And the well-being of a country's citizens--the feeling that their lives are on track; that they're achieving their long-term goals; that they have purpose, joy, and affection for others--is a crucial element in a successful democratic society. It is more basic, according to the Declaration of Independence, than high income. Yet we are still using economic measurements to gauge national progress. This approach worked fairly well in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when many basic needs were unmet. But as nations became more prosperous and fundamental services improved, economic indicators increasingly missed their target. Today, they are riddled with shortcomings and limitations. Despite huge increases in wealth over the last decade, residents of most industrialized nations have shown little increase in the satisfaction they report feeling in their lives. In the same period that saw developed economies triple

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