Sunday, 22 March 2009

Happiest countries in the world

NEF (New Economy foundation) ( an innovative think-tank established in 1986 has produced recently a new index measuring human well being. The HPI or the Happy Planet Index. Below you will find some extract from the HPI site explaining what the index is and how is calculated. The research findings are phenomenal and all conclude to two major conclusions:
a) All countries can do better
b) We have been focusing on the wrong end of the stick

The Happy Planet Index is an innovative new measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered.

It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with human well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives.

By addressing the relative success or failure of countries in supporting good lives for their citizens, whilst respecting the environmental resource limits upon which our lives depend, the HPI has much to teach us. Analysing its results could help us to move towards a world where we can all live good lives without costing the earth

How it is calculated
The HPI reflects the average years of happy life produced by a given society, nation or group of nations, per unit of planetary resources consumed. Put another way, it represents the efficiency with which countries convert the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens.

The Global HPI incorporates three separate indicators: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy.

Conceptually, it is straight forward and intuitive:

HPI = Life satisfaction x Life expectancy x ß


Ecological Footprint + α

(variables a & b are explained in detail in the HPI report)

On a scale of 0 to 100 for the HPI, we have set a reasonable target for nations to aspire to of 83.5. This is based on attainable levels of life expectancy and well-being and a reasonably sized ecological footprint.

At this point in time, the highest HPI is only 68.2, scored by the Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu. The lowest, and perhaps less surprising than some other results, is Zimbabwe’s at 16.6. No country achieves an overall high score and no country does well on all three indicators. Vanuatu, for example, has only a moderate level of life expectancy at 69 years.

This conclusion is less surprising in the light of our argument that governments have been concentrating on the wrong indicators for too long. If you have the wrong map, you are unlikely to reach your destination.

You can get the map here: - the map is interactive and you can check where your country falls.
The 20 top countries in HPI are:

Rank Country Life Sat Life Exp EF HPI
Reasonable ideal 8.2 82.0 1.5 83.5

1 Vanuatu 7.4 68.6 1.1 68.2
2 Colombia 7.2 72.4 1.3 67.2
3 Costa Rica 7.5 78.2 2.1 66.0
4 Dominica 7.3 75.6 1.8 64.6
5 Panama 7.2 74.8 1.8 63.5
6 Cuba 6.3 77.3 1.4 61.9
7 Honduras 7.2 67.8 1.4 61.8
8 Guatemala 7.0 67.3 1.2 61.7
9 El Salvador 6.6 70.9 1.2 61.7
10 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 7.2 71.1 1.7 61.4
11 Saint Lucia 7.0 72.4 1.6 61.3
12 Vietnam 6.1 70.5 0.8 61.2
13 Bhutan 7.6 62.9 1.3 61.1
14 Samoa (Western) 6.9 70.2 1.4 61.0
15 Sri Lanka 6.1 74.0 1.1 60.3
16 Antigua and Barbuda 7.4 73.9 2.3 59.2
17 Philippines 6.4 70.4 1.2 59.2
18 Nicaragua 6.3 69.7 1.1 59.1
19 Kyrgyzstan 6.6 66.8 1.1 59.0
20 Solomon Islands 6.9 62.3 1.0 58.9

Although Vanuatu tops the happiness index, it is ranked 207th out of 233 economies when measured against Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Nef is calling for the adoption of a "global manifesto for a happier planet" that will list ways nations can live within their environmental limits and increase people's quality of life. The recommendations include:

Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger
Recognising the contribution of individuals and unpaid work
Ensuring economic policies stay within environmental limits

The HPI NEF report warns if annual global consumption levels matched the UK's, it would take 3.1 Earths to meet the demand.

After NEF's work was published, Adrian White, an analytic social psychologist at the University of Leicester School of Psychology, analysed the HPI data published by NEF, UNESCO, the CIA, the WHO, the Veenhoven Database, the Latinbarometer, the Afrobarometer, and the UNHDR, to create a global projection of subjective well-being: the first world map of happiness.

According to his work then, the 20 most happy countries in the world are:
1. Denmark
2. Switzerland
3. Austria
4. Iceland
5. The Bahamas
6. Finland
7. Sweden
8. Bhutan
9. Brunei
10. Canada
11. Ireland
12. Luxembourg
13. Costa Rica
14. Malta
15. The Netherlands
16. Antigua and Barbuda
17. Malaysia
18. New Zealand
19. Norway
20. The Seychelles

NB: you can find out more at and
you can find the actual map here:
To download the HPI report :
To read more about Mr White's work you can go here:

1 comment:

George Georgitsis said...

I like the Happiness Index. Much more important than other indices that the UN tracks. Excellent post!

Pugs are the superior creatures in any planet

Don't you wish you were hot like Frankie (the Pug)???

Pugs talk!