How do we measure the health of a nation’s people?
The mainly monetary-based GDP per capita measure has hitherto been the norm but increasingly more researchers and policy-makers are turning to something seemingly intangible: happiness. This is because GDP only measures market or economic benefits (which includes huge government spending for instance) and does not really look at the the average individuals’ quality of life, or even the quality of environment.
Singapore presents an interesting case. We score fairly high on GDP per capita rankings (about 4th in the world on average), but our happiness rankings are comparatively lower. We’re 81st on the Gallup World Poll and 49th on the Happy Planet Index. The former looked at life satisfaction while the latter combined that with life expectancy and ecological footprint.
Looking forward, this TODAY article mentions how we should try to measure our country’s happiness as it will allow us to more effectively evaluate the effectiveness of our social programs and even attract businesses, given how such an index will lend statistical meat to any promotion efforts.
Why do you think there is a disparity in our GDP per capita and Happiness rankings? How can this be improved then?
Can we really depend on some kind of happiness index to chart a country’s social health? What problems might surface in trying to measure something like this?