Happiness is a combination of high life expectancy, a feeling of well-being, and a low ecological footprint, according to Nic Marks, founder of the Happy Planet Index (HPI). According to this definition, people in Costa Rica are the happiest in the world.
What creates a pessimistic outlook on life? Austerity measures and recession, according to Gallup. Greeks thus have the gloomiest view of their futures, followed by Czechs and Slovenians, found Gallup in a poll released July 18.
In a similar poll from 2012, Gallup notes: “Optimism is often found among those with low current life ratings, as is the case in less developed nations. In countries where residents generally rate their lives poorly, people tend to expect their lives to improve.”
Although some European countries are among the most pessimistic about future prospects, Gallup found many Europeans confident that the future will be brighter. The poll found that in Europe, Canada, Australia, and Israel, three out of four people rated their current quality of life as high, and people in many wealthy nations view their lives as “thriving,” meaning they have a positive evaluation of their lives at present and in the future.
According to the HPI evaluation of happiness for 2012, released June 14, Vietnam and Colombia follow Costa Rica as the happiest places on earth.
The inclusion of ecological footprint in the happiness equation gives a hand-up to the developing world. Of course, the top three countries on the HPI and those that follow—Belize, El Salvador, and Jamaica—are also graced with warm climates and beautiful beaches.
Applying a single method of evaluating happiness across a diverse globe presents its difficulties. For example, in Thailand, 20th on the HPI, the climate is warm, so the ecological footprint is decreased without the need for winter heating.
Family values are also different in Thailand than in some other nations. Extended families live together under one roof—also contributing to a decreased ecological footprint—and the elderly receive more care from their relatives, with limited medical care, perhaps affecting life spans. Thailand’s ecological footprint is 76th out of the 151 countries evaluated. Its life expectancy is 74.1 years, 62nd out 151.
Life expectancy is the highest in Japan at 83.4 years, followed by Hong Kong at 82.8 years, Switzerland at 82.3 years, and Italy and Australia both at 81.9 years. In terms of ecological footprint, however, these countries have some of the highest resource consumption rates per capita.
Life expectancy is the lowest in African countries—Sierra Leone at 47.8 years, followed by the Congo at 48.4 years, Central African Republic at 48.4 years, and Afghanistan at 48.7 years.
To determine a feeling of well-being in the various countries, the HPI had people rate their overall well-being on a scale of one to 10. Denmark was highest at 7.8, followed by Canada at 7.7, and Norway at 7.6. At the bottom of the list were Togo at 2.8, Tanzania at 3.2, and Botswana at 3.6.
The United States ranks 104th on the HPI, with a life expectancy of 73 years (33rd in the world), a sense of well-being rated 7.2 out of 10 (17th in the world), and with a high ecological footprint (145th out of 151 countries, meaning only six countries rated consume more resources per capita than Americans).
The smallest ecological footprints were found in Afghanistan, Haiti, and Bangladesh.
“Countries that do well on the HPI suffer many problems and many high-ranking countries are tainted by important human rights issues,” notes the HPI.
China, for example, ranks 60th, ahead of Canada (65th), the Netherlands (67th), and Australia (76th). Yet, as Amnesty International notes: “An estimated 500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial, and millions are unable to access the legal system to seek redress for their grievances. Harassment, surveillance, house arrest, and imprisonment of human rights defenders are on the rise, and censorship of the Internet and other media has grown.”
Cost Rica, the happiest place on earth by HPI standards, established an unarmed democracy in 1949 which has endured to the present day. Then-leader José Figueres Ferrer gave voting rights to all, including women and minorities, and abolished the army.
Currently, Costa Rica gets 90 percent of its energy from renewable resources, cited by U.S. President Barack Obama as a success story. If it reaches its 2021 goal of becoming 100 percent carbon-neutral, it will be the first in the world.
You will find more statistics at Statista