Money might make the world go around, but it won’t necessarily give you a long, happy sustainable life. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the Happy Planet Index, which shows that while happiness is in short supply in some affluent countries, people in many poorer countries have happier lives. The index is put together with reliable data from the UN, the Gallup World Poll and Global Footprint Network, which is not available for all countries.
Take, for example the United States, a wealthy country with ranked eighth in GDP per capita of all those included in the index. Although it boasts a flourishing economy based on trade, fossil fuels and manufacturing, it ranks a miserable 108th out of 140 countries when it comes to happiness. Life expectancy is lower than many other wealthy countries, for example in Spain it is 82 while in the US it is 79. The country’s problem with economic inequality continues, with one of the worst inequality scores (13%) among Western countries. At the same time, its ecological footprint puts it among the bottom 10 in the world.
Its neighbour, Mexico, the country that Donald Trump loathes so much that he wants to build a wall between both to stop its inhabitants, who he calls ‘rapists’ and ‘bad hombres’ out, scored an enviable 2nd in the world ranking in terms of happiness, with a life expectancy of 76.4 years, 7.3/10 on the wellbeing index, a lower ecological footprint core (2.9) and a not-too-good equality ranking (60th of 140). I find it incredible that the Mexicans are doing so much better in terms of equality than the Americans, despite the fact that the top 20% of the population earns more than 13 times as much as the bottom 20%.
According to the index, the worst place to live is Chad, where life expectancy is a mere 50-8, and wellbeing scores just 4/10. It does worse than any other country when it comes to inequality. I think I’ll give that one a miss.
If you want to live in the happiest place in the world, then book a ticket to Costa Rica, home to the greatest density of species in the world but with a GDP of less than a quarter of that of many Western European and North American countries. With an overall happiness score of 44.7, life expectancy is a healthy 79.1, wellbeing stands at 7.3/10! This isn’t the first time that Costa Rica has taken the top spot (it was also number one in 2009 and 2012). By 2015, the country was able to produce 99% of its electricity from renewable sources, while Donald Trump is trying to reopen coal mines and telling people that wind turbines cause cancer.
My adopted country, Spain, managed to rank 15th, with a life expectancy of 82.2 (among the top ten), wellbeing of 6.3/10, a less praiseworthy ecological footprint of 91/140 but a good equality record (22nd of 140). And I thought it was just the blue skies and sunshine that put a smile on my face! Check out the fascinating Happy Planet Index at http://happyplanetindex.org/