The New Economics Foundation (NEF) has published a Happy Planet index just ahead of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
There have been other studies and reports which ranked countries based on “happiness,” but nef’s Happy Planet index is a bit unique because it ranks countries based on health and happiness per unit of environmental input.
Nic Marks, nef fellow and creator of the Happy Planet index, used global data on life expectancy, happiness and environmental sustainability to come up with the index of 151 countries.
The United States ranks 105th on the index. The United Kingdom tops the EU list, but is still ranked far behind at 41 on the overall index. Costa Rica, Vietnam and Colombia were the top three countries on the index, where people live the longest, happiest, most sustainable lives.
Costa Ricans have higher average life expectancy and well-being than people living in the United States and the country has a per capita ecological footprint one third the size of that of the US.
“The Happy Planet Index measures what really matters – long and happy lives now and the potential for good lives in the future. For too long we have relied on incomplete measures of progress that focus only on economic activity, such as GDP,” said Nic Marks. “Rich and poor nations face different challenges but their ultimate goal is the same. The HPI not only reveals how far every country has to travel before it achieves good lives that don’t cost the earth [or within its fair share of planetary resources] but also the direction it needs to move in.”
On a planetary scale, the study says that we are not a happy planet. No country is able to combine success across the three goals of high life expectancy, high experienced well-being and living within environmental limits.
High-income nations have too much consumption to be happy on this index, while the lowest income countries in sub-Saharan Africa score even lower because of low life expectancy and low well-being. Of the nine countries closest to achieving happy and green lives, eight are in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Read the full Happy Planet index report – Download (pdf)