You can’t buy happiness, but can you measure it?

17 Apr

The U.S. Constitution promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as inalienable rights. Now, the nonprofit Sustainable Seattle has launched a new initiative to tackle this third promise head-on. Through the “Seattle Area Happiness Initiative”, or SAHI, Sustainable Seattle and its partners are developing an index to measure regional happiness. I recently covered this intriguing project for the Nonprofit Quarterly news wire: Seattle Gets Serious about the Pursuit of Happiness.

Seattle’s work is based on a set of “Gross National Happiness” indicators famously developed in Bhutan, and subsequently adapted in several other communities worldwide. Seattle leaders are also drawing upon recent happiness indicator work in nearby Victoria, British Columbia.

So, what are the indicators of happiness?  Here’s a list of the nine categories as adapted for Seattle. Within each category, there are several measurable data sets that are now being finalized.

What makes us happy? (according to SAHI)

  • Material well being
  • Environmental quality
  • (Good) governance
  • Education
  • Community vitality
  • Cultural vitality
  • Psychological well being
  • Human health
  • Time balance

For more information, visit the SAHI project site. Judging by the wealth of background information there, project organizers are happy to share what they know!