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The Vermont Happiness Survey is the first state-based, random telephone study utilizing the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. This reports looks at the 2013 Vermont (statewide) results for the 10 GNH domains. The GNH Index was developed utilizing four decades of well-being, happiness and quality of life surveys to measure 10 GNH domains: psychological well-being; physical health; time balance; community vitality; social connectedness; education and cultural access; environmental quality/access to nature; good governance; material well-being; and work experience. The survey was designed to provide a solid baseline so that communities, towns and organizations can use the survey to identify trends and mark progress by measuring what matters. 

I. Vermont Survey

The Vermont Happiness Survey is the first state-based, random telephone study using the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. The GNH Index was developed using four decades of well-being, happiness, and quality of life surveys to measure the 10 GNH domains:

  • Psychological well-being (Satisfaction and optimism in individual life)
  • Physical health (Health, disability, exercise, sleep and nutrition)
  • Time balance (Time for recreation and socializing with family and friends)
  • Community vitality (Relationships and interactions in communities)
  • Social connectedness (Sense of belonging and vitality of relationships)
  • Education and cultural access (Access to educational and cultural opportunities)
  • Environmental quality/access to nature (Perceived quality of local water, air, and soil)
  • Good governance (Ability to access government and affect change)
  • Material well-being (Individual and family income and financial security)
  • Work experience (Satisfaction with working life)

Data collection for the 2013 Vermont Happiness Survey used a random sample of Vermont households and interviewed only respondents that were 18 years of age or more. Calling took place during weekdays and weekends between the hours of 9am and 8pm. A total of 426 completed responses were collected ensuring a confidence level of 95% and a confidence interval (Margin of Error) of +/-4.9%. This means that if this study were conducted 100 times, 95 of those times, results would fall within +/-4.9% of what was found in this effort.

The Gross National Happiness Index is directly inspired by work conducted in Bhutan which has later been used by the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), numerous countries and communities (Centre For Bhutan Studies & GNH Research, February 29, 2016). The Vermont survey included Cantril’s Ladder of Life and four United Kingdom Quality of Life questions to enable wider comparisons. The survey was designed to provide a solid baseline so that communities, towns and organizations can use the survey to identify trends and mark progress by measuring what matters. Table A displays the Vermont Happines Survey questions by domain and their associated survey responses/response values.

Table A. 2013 Vermont Happiness Survey Domains by Question and Question Responses/Values

GNH Domain Survey Question Response Value = 1 Response Value = 2 Response Value = 3 Response Value = 4 Response Value = 5
Community Vitality When you think about strangers that you encounter, what is your level of trust? Trust none of them Trust a few of them Trust some of them Trust most of them Trust all of them
Community Vitality When you think about businesses in your community, what is your level of trust? Trust none of them Trust a few of them Trust some of them Trust most of them Trust all of them
Community Vitality Imagine you lost a wallet or purse with $200, how likely do you think it would be to have all your money returned if it was found by someone who lives close by? Not at all likely Somewhat likely Fairly likely Very likely Extremely likely
Community Vitality How satisfied are you with your personal safety in your city or town? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Community Vitality In the past 12 months how often would you say you donated money to a charity? Never Once in the last year At least once every six months At least once every three months At least once a month
Community Vitality In the past 12 months how often would you say you volunteered your time to an organization? Never Once in the last year At least once every six months At least once every three months At least once a month
Education and Cultural Access How would you describe your feeling of belonging to your local community? Very weak Somewhat weak Neither weak nor strong Somewhat strong Very strong
Education and Cultural Access In your neighborhood or community, how satisfied are you with your access to activities to develop skills through informal education? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Education and Cultural Access In your neighborhood or community, how satisfied are you with your access to artistic and cultural activities? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Education and Cultural Access In your neighborhood or community, how satisfied are you with your access to sports and recreational activities? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Education and Cultural Access How often do you feel uncomfortable or out of place in your neighborhood because of your ethnicity, culture, race, skin color, language, accent, gender, sexual orientation, or religion? All of The Time Most of The Time Some of The Time Rarely Never
Environmental Quality Generally-speaking, how healthy would you say your neighborhood is? Not at all healthy A little healthy Somewhat healthy Very healthy Extremely healthy
Environmental Quality How satisfied are you with efforts to preserve the natural environment in your neighborhood? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Environmental Quality How satisfied are you with the options you have to enjoy nature in your neighborhood? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Environmental Quality How satisfied are you with the air quality in your neighborhood? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Environmental Quality How satisfied are you with the quality of the natural environment in your neighborhood? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Governance How satisfied are you with the job being done by local government officials in your city or town? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Governance Corruption is widespread throughout government in my city or town. Strongly Agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree
Governance Public officials in my city or town pay attention to what people think. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Governance People in my city or town can influence their public officials. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Governance How much confidence do you have in your local government? No confidence Not very much confidence A fair amount of confidence Quite a lot of confidence A great deal of confidence
Governance How much confidence do you have in your Federal /National government? No confidence Not very much confidence A fair amount of confidence Quite a lot of confidence A great deal of confidence
Material Well-Being In general, how stressed do you feel about your personal finances? Overwhelming Stress High Stress Moderate Stress Low Stress No Stress at all
Material Well-Being How frequently do you find yourself just getting by financially and living paycheck to paycheck? All the time Most of the time Sometimes Rarely Never
Material Well-Being In the past 12 months how frequently could you not pay bills (water or phone bill, credit card, etc.) on time. At least once a month At least once every three months At least once every six months Once in the last year Never
Material Well-Being In the past 12 months how frequently did you eat less because there was not enough food or money for food. At least once a month At least once every three months At least once every six months Once in the last year Never
Material Well-Being I have enough money to buy the things I want. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Physical Health How would you say your overall health is? Poor Fair Good Very Good Excellent
Physical Health During the past week, how much of the time did you have a lot of energy? Very rarely or never Rarely Sometimes Often Very often or always
Physical Health During the past week, how much of the time did you feel you could not get going? Very often or always Often Sometimes Rarely Very rarely or never
Physical Health During the past week, how much of the time did you experience physical pain that prevented you from doing what you needed to do? Very often or always Often Sometimes Rarely Very rarely or never
Physical Health How satisfied are you with your ability to perform your daily living activities? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Physical Health How satisfied are you with the quality of your exercise? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Psychological Well-Being I lead a purposeful and meaningful life. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Psychological Well-Being I am engaged and interested in my daily activities. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Psychological Well-Being I am optimistic about my future. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Psychological Well-Being Most days I feel a sense of accomplishment from what I do. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Psychological Well-Being In general, I feel very positive about myself. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Social Connection How satisfied are you with the support you get from your friends? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Social Connection How satisfied are you with your personal relationships? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Social Connection To what extent do you agree with the following statement: People in my life care about me. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Social Connection Over the past week have you felt lonely. Very often or always Often Sometimes Rarely Very rarely or never
Social Connection Over the past week have you felt loved. Very rarely or never Rarely Sometimes Often Very often or always
Time Balance In a typical week, how much of your time do you spend doing the kinds of things that you enjoy? None of my time Not much of my time Some of my time Most of my time All of my time
Time Balance In my daily life I seldom have time to do the things I really enjoy. Strongly Agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree
Time Balance My life has been too rushed. Strongly Agree Agree Neither agree nor disagree Disagree Strongly Disagree
Time Balance I have been able to take life at a leisurely pace. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Time Balance I have had enough time to do what I needed to do. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Time Balance I have had plenty of spare time. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Work Experience All things considered, how satisfied are you with your current work life? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Work Experience How satisfied are you with the balance between the time you spend on your job and the time you spend on other aspects of your life? Very Dissatisfied Dissatisfied Neither Satisfied or Dissatisfied Satisfied Very Satisfied
Work Experience How much of the time do you find your current work life Interesting? Very rarely or never Rarely Sometimes Often Very often or always
Work Experience The conditions of my job allow me to be about as productive as I could be. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Work Experience Considering all my efforts and achievements in my job I feel I get paid appropriately. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly Agree
Work Experience I am allowed to decide how to go about getting my job done. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither agree nor disagree Agree Strongly Agree

II. United States Survey

The GNH Index is used to collect data across the United States. The national survey uses a web-based, self-reporting response methodology that is different from the statistically-valid methods used in the Vermont data collection effort. While the methodologies are different, Table B displays some of the national results in the absence of other fully-comparable research at this time.

Table B. 2013 National Happiness Survey Results

GNH Domain Survey Question Valid Responses for Question, Count Sample for Question, Count Mean Score
Community Vitality When you think about your neighbors, what is your level of trust? 559 559 3.0
Community Vitality When you think about strangers that you encounter, what is your level of trust? 558 559 2.3
Community Vitality When you think about businesses in your community, what is your level of trust? 556 559 3.2
Community Vitality Imagine you lost a wallet or purse with $200, how likely do you think it would be to have all your money returned if it was found by someone who lives close by? 558 559 2.7
Community Vitality How satisfied are you with your personal safety in your city or town? 557 559 3.9
Community Vitality In the past 12 months how often would you say you donated money to a charity? 558 559 3.7
Community Vitality In the past 12 months how often would you say you volunteered your time to an organization? 556 559 3.3
Community Vitality Community Vitality Domain (mean score for 7 questions) 3.1
Education and Cultural Access How would you describe your feeling of belonging to your local community? 554 559 3.1
Education and Cultural Access In your neighborhood or community, how satisfied are you with your access to activities to develop skills through informal education? 559 559 3.5
Education and Cultural Access In your neighborhood or community, how satisfied are you with your access to artistic and cultural activities? 559 559 3.6
Education and Cultural Access In your neighborhood or community, how satisfied are you with your access to sports and recreational activities? 558 559 3.7
Education and Cultural Access How often do you feel uncomfortable or out of place in your neighborhood because of your ethnicity, culture, race, skin color, language, accent, gender, sexual orientation, or religion? 559 559 4.3
Education and Cultural Access Education and Cultural Access Domain (mean score for 5 questions) 3.7
Environmental Quality Generally-speaking, how healthy would you say your neighborhood is? 536 559 3.7
Environmental Quality How satisfied are you with efforts to preserve the natural environment in your neighborhood? 558 559 3.5
Environmental Quality How satisfied are you with the options you have to enjoy nature in your neighborhood? 557 559 3.9
Environmental Quality How satisfied are you with the air quality in your neighborhood? 558 559 3.8
Environmental Quality How satisfied are you with the quality of the natural environment in your neighborhood? 550 559 3.9
Environmental Quality Environmental Quality Domain (mean score for 5 questions) 3.8
Governance How satisfied are you with the job being done by local government officials in your city or town? 543 559 3.1
Governance Corruption is widespread throughout government in my city or town. 556 559 3.4
Governance Public officials in my city or town pay attention to what people think. 557 559 3.1
Governance People in my city or town can influence their public officials. 555 559 3.3
Governance How much confidence do you have in your local government? 554 559 2.9
Governance How much confidence do you have in your Federal /National government? 557 559 2.1
Governance Governance Domain (mean score for 6 questions) 2.9
Material Well-Being In general, how stressed do you feel about your personal finances? 554 559 2.9
Material Well-Being How frequently do you find yourself just getting by financially and living paycheck to paycheck? 555 559 2.8
Material Well-Being In the past 12 months how frequently could you not pay bills (water or phone bill, credit card, etc.) on time. 555 559 4.0
Material Well-Being In the past 12 months how frequently did you eat less because there wasn’t enough food or money for food. 555 559 4.2
Material Well-Being I have enough money to buy the things I want. 556 559 2.9
Material Well-Being Material Well-Being Domain (mean score for 5 questions) 3.4
Physical Health How would you say your overall health is? 546 559 3.2
Physical Health During the past week, how much of the time did you have a lot of energy? 557 559 3.3
Physical Health During the past week, how much of the time did you feel you could not get going? 555 559 3.6
Physical Health During the past week, how much of the time did you experience physical pain that prevented you from doing what you needed to do? 557 559 4.0
Physical Health How satisfied are you with your ability to perform your daily living activities? 559 559 4.0
Physical Health How satisfied are you with the quality of your exercise? 556 559 3.1
Physical Health Physical Health Domain (mean score for 6 questions) 3.5
Psychological Well-Being I lead a purposeful and meaningful life. 559 559 3.9
Psychological Well-Being I am engaged and interested in my daily activities. 557 559 3.9
Psychological Well-Being I am optimistic about my future. 559 559 3.8
Psychological Well-Being Most days I feel a sense of accomplishment from what I do. 559 559 3.7
Psychological Well-Being In general, I feel very positive about myself. 557 559 3.7
Psychological Well-Being Psychological Well-Being Domain (mean score for 5 questions) 3.8
Social Connection How satisfied are you with the support you get from your friends? 558 559 3.7
Social Connection How satisfied are you with your personal relationships? 556 559 3.6
Social Connection To what extent do you agree with the following statement: People in my life care about me. 558 559 4.2
Social Connection Over the past week have you felt lonely. 558 559 3.7
Social Connection Over the past week have you felt loved. 555 559 3.9
Social Connection Social Connection Domain (mean score for 5 questions) 3.8
Time Balance In a typical week, how much of your time do you spend doing the kinds of things that you enjoy? 556 559 3.2
Time Balance In my daily life I seldom have time to do the things I really enjoy. 557 559 3.2
Time Balance My life has been too rushed. 559 559 2.9
Time Balance I have been able to take life at a leisurely pace. 557 559 2.9
Time Balance I have had enough time to do what I needed to do. 558 559 3.1
Time Balance I have had plenty of spare time. 557 559 2.6
Time Balance Time Balance Domain (mean score for 6 questions) 3.0
Work Experience All things considered, how satisfied are you with your current work life? 398 435 3.6
Work Experience How satisfied are you with the balance between the time you spend on your job and the time you spend on other aspects of your life? 396 435 3.3
Work Experience How much of the time do you find your current work life Interesting? 400 435 3.6
Work Experience The conditions of my job allow me to be about as productive as I could be. 399 435 3.5
Work Experience Considering all my efforts and achievements in my job I feel I get paid appropriately. 399 435 3.0
Work Experience I am allowed to decide how to go about getting my job done. 398 435 3.8
Work Experience Work Experience Domain (mean score for 6 questions) 3.5

III. Contributors to the Research Design of the 2013 Vermont Happiness Survey

Ryan T. Howell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Psychology Department
San Francisco State University
Co-found of Beyond the Purchase

Michael Moser
CoordinatorVermont State Data Center
University of Vermont, Center for Rural Studies
mmoser@uvm.edu, (802) 656-0864

Tom Barefoot
Co-coordinator, Vermont Data Collaborative and Gross National Happiness, USA
tom@gnhusa.org

Special Thanks to:

Carol Graham
Leo Pasvolsky Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
College Park Professor, University of Maryland

Valid response counts for the 2013 Vermont Happiness Survey include the number of complete responses received for each survey question. Sample counts represent the sample size for each survey question. Valid responses and sample counts were not calculated for the survey domains to limit confusion around the number of respondents.

Mean scores for individual Vermont Happiness Survey questions were calculated using the following formula:

([Sum of Scores from All Valid Responses] / [Total Number of Valid Responses])

Mean domain scores were calculated using the following formula:

([Sum of the Mean Valid Responses for All Questions in the Domain] / [Total Number of Questions in the Domain])

For a comprehensive list of question response sets/values making up each Vermont Well-being Survey domain, please refer to Table A in the Background tab/section.

The 2013 Vermont Happiness Survey used a random sample of Vermont households and interviewed only respondents that were 18 years of age or more. A telephone survey collection methodology was used, potentially increasing the risk for a lack of representativeness, as households with no landline telephone are not represented. Calling also only took place during weekdays and weekends between the hours of 9am and 8pm.