We have commented earlier about the recently established components of happiness and how the populations of western developed countries become less happy as they become more prosperous. Now research by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) has come up with the Happy Planet Index (HPI), which ranks nations by combining measures of their ecological footprint with the happiness levels of their citizens.
The Guardian (4/7/09) reports that Britain is in 74th place (out of 143 nations) and the USA is in 114th. The top ten places are dominated by Latin American nations, whilst the lowest places are filled by African countries.
The HPI was first calculated in 2006 and measures how much of the planet's resources a nation uses in relation to how long and how happy are the lives of its citizens. The index now covers 99% of the world's population. NEF claims the index is a much better way of looking at a countries 'success' than simply through a measure of GDP.
The HPI suggests for example that fast-growing economies such as the US, China and India were all greener and happier 20 years ago than they are today. NEF's lead researcher and author Samaah Abdallah observes "The HPI suggests that the path we have been following is, without exception, unable to deliver all three goals: high life satisfaction, high life expectancy and 'one-planet living.'"
Costa Ricans top the list because they report the highest life satisfaction in the world, they live slightly longer than the Americans, but have an ecological footprint that is less than a quarter of theirs.