Measuring Well-Being, beyond GDP

Measuring Well-Being, beyond GDP

For decades the Gross Domestic Product has been the gold-standard for measuring economic health, wealth and progress. GDP has become entrenched in our discourse, but it is a remarkably narrow measure of a nation’s overall well-being. It defines progress through the narrow lens that more is better – more consumption, more production, more exports. GDP entirely neglects indicators such as income inequality, the cost of underemployment and pollution, environmental impact and resource depletion or a broad range of social indicators including the cost of crime, the value of volunteerism and leisure time, education and community. As a measure of “progress” and national “health”, it is sorely lacking. Which is why many are looking toward alternative measures of well-being, that take into consideration economic, environmental and social indicators. Here are two short video clips which explain why and how GDP fails to paint a complete picture of growth, progress and well-being in the new economy, and how alternative measures such as Gross National Happiness or the Human Development Index can help us.

Check out these videos and we would love to hear your thoughts:

Well-Being in the New Economy

What is Gross National Happiness.

Valerie Anderson

Valerie Anderson coordinates Operations at Common Change. She received her MPhil in Development Studies from the University of Cape Town and has spent the last 6 years establishing and maintaining a range of community development projects both in her home country, South Africa, and in low-income urban areas in the United States. She is a writer, problem-solver and strategist and loves to create environments in which others can thrive. Valerie and her husband, Brett Fish, have recently returned to their beautiful home city, Cape Town. You can find more of Val’s writing at

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  • John Toler

    I agree that an indicator that is based solely on $ and nothing else is not a healthy measuring stick. The idea of GNH is an interesting one and I believe would help overcome the myth that money buys happiness. That being said true happiness only comes from the Lord. In the past people sought money to make them happy but that does not mean that people won’t seek simplicity or giving to charity to gain their happiness and self worth. Agreed I would rather have someone seeking their own selfish gain through charity and thinking of others but let not that take the place of the recognition that true lasting happiness comes from God. Until we as individuals live a life not focused on ourselves but others because of our obedience to Christ and not because of how good it makes me feel to help others we will still be lacking. I think those were good videos and a good post. For me it makes you think outside of the American box which can be good. Thanks!

  • Brett Anderson

    I would be interested to take a deeper look at the definition of happiness here and see if a word like joy might not be a better representation – ‘joy’ which i see as more linked to contentment and greater wellness-with-one’s-circumstances as opposed to ‘happiness’ which is very situation dependent… so if i am in a good place and someone i love dies that will take away my happiness temporarily but if i am joyful and at peace and hopeful that will be a better measure of my overall wellbeing, whereas for someone whose world falls apart when that same death happens, it shows that happiness was the main focus which to me would indicate a weaker or less stable state of being. Thoughts?

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