Bangkok, October 29:

People in Thailand’s impoverished northeast are the poorest in the country, but according to a new measure of social well-being, they are also the happiest.

Based on factors including life expectancy, job satisfaction, health and family relationships, people in northeastern Thailand are happier than the rest of the country — even though they earn less than one third of the nation’s average income of $2,700 a year. “Even though people in the northeast are not rich, they are happy because of local tradition and culture, relations with their families and co-mmunities and partly because they have ad-opted the concept of the sufficiency economy,” said researcher Noppadon Kannikar.

Noppadon is a founding member of the Well-Being Index Networks, created earlier this year to develop a way to quantify the nation’s “gross domestic happiness (GDH)’ — using a broad range of indicators of well-being and prosperity. The finance ministry has tossed around the id-ea since before the coup, as a way to determine whether gro-wth in the nation’s GDP was improving the lives of Thais. But the concept has taken a new pro-minence since when military-installed premier announced that he wou-ld focus on making the nation happier, rather than just richer.