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Index to Social Health

Hélene Laberge


More and more people are coming to understand that the best-known index of economic
development, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), is not necessarily the best indicator of the state of well-being. For this reason, a number of other measurements, such as gross national happiness, human development, or social development have become the subjects of theoretical work, and some have begun to be tested. If we aren’t more familiar with them, it may very well be because it isn’t in the government’s interests to publicize them, given that growth in the GDP is often accompanied by a decline in other indicators, including those measured in the Index for Social Health (ISH)




Canada’s Gross Domestic Produce (GDP) is indicated in red; the Index for Social Health (ISH) in black. Source: Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Bulletin of Applied Research, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer-Autumn 1997)

The american GDP is indicated in red, the indexfor Social Health in black. Source: Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Bulletin of Applied Research, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer-Autumn 1997) 

  In the United States, the ISH has been measured, on a state-by-state basis, since 1970. To date, the peak value, 69.5, was recorded for the year 1973. Since the economic crash of 1993 (when the value reached a low of 43), the index has slowly risen, but with a value of 54.8 in 2006, it still remains well below the high point reached in 1973.

The search for a single quantitative measure of social well-being resulted in the development of the Index of Social Health (ISH) in 1986 by Marc Miringoff at Fordham University in the United States. The Index focuses on specific social problems, to determine if there has been an improvement or a decline over time.

The Index of Social Health identifies 16 social issues dealing with health, mortality, inequality, and access to services. The indicators are stratified by stages of life.





- Infant mortality

- Child abuse

- Children in poverty


- Teen suicide

- Drug abuse

- High school drop outs








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