Happiness, Wellbeing, and Mental Health in Bhutanese Higher Education: Exploring Student and Staff Experiences and Perceptions within a Framework of Gross National Happiness

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Matthew J Schuelka
Mollie Braznell
Matthew Leavesley
Sangay Dorji
Khandu Dorji
Karma Nidup
Pema Latsho


Bhutan is a country known for happiness. In the 1970s, the Fourth Druk Gyalpo [Dragon King] of Bhutan established the development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). However, using ‘happiness’ as a measurement of social and economic development does not mean that all Bhutanese are ‘happy’ themselves. Schools – including higher education – can be stressful places in Bhutan, and there is little support or resources for the mental health and wellbeing needs of students. In this article, we explore the experiences and perceptions of both students and staff across the Royal University of Bhutan in regard to wellbeing and mental health. In all, there were over 1,700 respondents to our survey. We explore the results of the survey through an Educational Values Evaluation and Design (EVED) framework to understand the complex factors that both enable and challenge GNH as a value in higher education. The results show that while many students view their happiness and wellbeing as positive overall, there are still a significant amount that experience depression, stress, social difficulties, and other forms of distress. In comparison to college staff perception of student’s mental health and wellbeing, the students are more positive about their own wellbeing than the staff.


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