UC investigating NZ's gross national happiness

16 April 2013

A University of Canterbury statistics researcher is taking a statistical approach to gauge the level of New Zealand's gross national happiness.

UC investigating NZ's gross national happiness - Imported from Legacy News system

A University of Canterbury statistics researcher is taking a statistical approach to gauge the level of New Zealand’s gross national happiness.

UC’s Lisa Henley hopes to quantify the nation’s contentedness in a PhD study supervised by the Head of the Mathematics and Statistics, Professor Jennifer Brown, and geography senior lecturer Dr David Conradson.

"I'm trying to build a statistically guided, more rounded approach to measuring human-flourishing. Human-flourishing is based on improving society by not relying on perpetual growth, and that we can be happy without consuming so much.

"Most people are not happy with having or consuming less, so this is about a cultural shift in the way we measure progress and wellbeing in the long term,’’ Henley says.

Some countries are already starting to think about how happy their people are. The kingdom of Bhutan already has a gross national happiness measure.

"The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income. Gross domestic product misses crucial components of a nation’s welfare including those parts that exist outside of the monetary exchange. 

"Materialistic values which encourage continual consumption are in direct opposition to a sustainable future on a planet with finite resources. Policy makers have the potential to influence personal and cultural values. If we are interested in creating a sustainable future, it may be time to review the values being promoted at a national level.

"There are many well-being measures already available at a national and global level, including measures such as life satisfaction ratings and measures which include a sustainability component such as the Happy Planet Index.  Other indicators include general and mental health statistics. 

"I am interested to see if there is a way to statistically analyse the current measures of human flourishing to determine if there are common interpretable dimensions which, while never being able to fully capture such an esoteric concept, could go towards capturing a large proportion of it.  

"Is there a way that a country could then be placed visually in this multi-dimensional space and tracked over time?  Is there a happy people, happy planet sweet spot to aim for in this space?’’

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz