From SNEB: Achieving Sustainable Development Goals With Happiness in a Changing World | Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB)

From SNEB: Achieving Sustainable Development Goals With Happiness in a Changing World

Posted by: on Saturday May 7, 2022

Jasia (Jayne) Steinmetz, RD, CD President, Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior

The confluence of major global trends has the potential to transform our communities to meet the needs of all people. These trends include 1) increasing acknowledgement of happiness and well-being as significant outcomes of development; 2) rapid population aging in every country; 3) the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which fuses technology, biology, and digital interface; and 4) swift transformations to avert climate change catastrophe and biological species destruction.

In 2011, Bhutan introduced a Resolution 65/309 to the UN General Assembly inviting governments to “give more importance to happiness and well-being in determining how to achieve and measure social and eco- nomic development.”1 The adopted resolution initiated global tracking of happiness and reporting of the Happiness Index by country in the annual World Happiness Report.

The 2022 World Happiness Report highlights 10 years of progress in research, policy, and practice that are increasingly aligned.2 There are 6 key variables used to explain average happiness across countries: gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, social support, healthy life expec- tancy, freedom, generosity, and corruption. Communities with high levels of trust are happier and more resilient.

During COVID-19 there was an increase in worry and stress, but also a global rise in benevolence through volunteering, helping strangers, and making donations. Countries with higher trust in public institutions and lower inequality had lower death rates from COVID-19 and fewer economic ramifications.2 Recognition that happiness and well-being are important for human development in times of crisis, fostered through social support, generosity, and trust in our government and insti- tutions, is critical in transforming society to avert the catastrophe of climate change, which is nearer than anticipated.3

Population aging, the result of longer life expectancies and declin- ing birth rates, is increasing in every country and at a faster pace than previously experienced. People 65 years old and older outnumber children younger than 5, and by 2030, 1 in 6 people will be aged 60 years and older.4 The WHO announced the Decade of Healthy Ageing and recog- nized that “aging” is becoming more fluid as workers remain in the work- force. Managers have 5 generations of workers in the workplace for the first time, with younger workers placing higher value on social benefits and community cultures.4 The transitions in work and society may be met with Fourth Industrial Revolution- appropriate technologies that can interface with humans but are adapted to the needs in different communities across the globe.

If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the midst of this confluence, it is recognized that the 5 Ps—people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership—must be aligned. The changing demographics in a time of increasing national and global calamities requires all human beings reach their potential. Recently, Lynch and colleagues measured US progress toward achieving the SDG when measured by the progress of the racial or ethnic group left fur- thest behind. The results show a failure of progress toward the SDG with racial gaps in delivering resources and services both deep and wide,5 a failure in supporting people to reach their potential.

There is no lack of frameworks to address discrimination and equity in our work. Authors of the 15th report of the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition provide a thorough analysis for the inclusion of agency as a pillar for food security frameworks so it may be part of pol- icy and analysis.6 O’Sullivan and colleagues introduced a justice-oriented digital framework to ensure SDG are reached.7 If we are to achieve the SDG while increasing happiness in the midst of this confluence, it will be because we took action to value and support all people, while dis- mantling barriers that compromise their potential. SNEB is motivated, we are preparing, and we cannot postpone action.


  1. United Nations. Happiness: towards a holistic approach to Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 19 July 2011. A/RES/65/309.
  2. Helliwell JF, Layard R, Sachs JD, De Neve J-E, Aknin LB, Wang S. World Happiness Report 2022. Sustainable Development Solutions Network;
  3. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Summary for policy- makers In: Po€rtner H-O, Roberts DC, Tignor M, Poloczanska ES, Mintenbeck K, Alegr’ıa A, Craig M, Langsdorf S, Lo€schke S, Mo€ller V, Okem A, Rama B, eds. Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge Uni- versity Press. In Press; 2022.
  4. World Health Organization (WHO). Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020−2030.