The (un)happy planet index

July 19, 2007


I’ve found another reason to move to Honduras. It ranks 7th in the world in the Happy Planet Index (HPI). This is an innovative new measure that aims to show the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world.

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.

Vanuatu was no. 1. New Zealand ranks 78th.  The USA 150th.  The lowest ranked country is Zimbabwe (178).  The countries that scored best were Latin American and island nations (Caribbean and Pacific).  I find this fascinating.  The richest and the poorest scored badly.  The rich presumably because of thier high resource consumption, and the poorest for thier life expectancy.  Here is the authors interpretations:

Island nations score well above average in the Index: They have higher life satisfaction, higher life expectancy and marginally lower Footprints than other states. Yet incomes (by GDP per capita) are roughly equal to the world average. Even within regions, islands do well. Malta tops the Western world with Cyprus in seventh place (out of 24); the top five HPI nations in Africa are all islands; as well as two of the top four in Asia. Perhaps a more acute awareness of environmental limits has sometimes helped their societies to bond better and to adapt to get more from less. Combined with the enhanced well-being that stems from close contact with nature, the world as a whole stands to learn much from the experience of islands.

It is possible to live long, happy lives with a much smaller environmental impact: For example, in the United States and Germany people’s sense of life satisfaction is almost identical and life expectancy is broadly similar. Yet Germany’s Ecological Ecological footprint is only about half that of the USA. This means that Germany is around twice as efficient as the USA at generating happy long lives based on the resources that they consume.

You can also calculate your personal score on the website.  My score on was 43.1. What’s yours?


2 Responses to “The (un)happy planet index”

  1. Arthur Says:

    Interesting survey. I answered as honestly as I could and ended up with a score of 66.6.
    I’ve always found these “personality” surveys difficult to fill out as the answers to many of the questions are dependent on how I am feeling at the time.

    Thanks for posting this!


  2. La Gringa Says:

    It was an interesting quiz and the results were right on target. Comparing my answers to the country average (a US expat in Honduras), was probably a little confusing when it came to the family questions, income, etc. But then I really doubt that many Hondurans would have found and answered this quiz. I received very good scores on the Ecological and Carbon Footprints, but the rest? I’d rather not talk about it!

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