By Alison Dalton Smith
Happiness is considered a universal human aspiration, but the means to achieving happiness has become inexorably entangled with gaining material possessions. In common paradigms of economic development, Gross Domestic Product is used as a proxy for measuring the well-being of a nation’s citizens. While this is often true in impoverished nations where basic needs are not met, there is a threshold point past which increasing economic gains no longer necessarily deliver increases in human well-being. Beyond this threshold, economic measures are no longer adequate for accurate measurement of a nation’s human well-being. In fact, this myopic focus on economic growth has created an unsustainable way of life that is increasingly unfulfilling for those that are engaged in the cycles of consumption. In this paper, I will address both recent patterns in human well-being in industrialized nations and more comprehensive indexes that quantify human well-being.