Press Release – Europe

press • Published October, 2021

Costa Rica tops latest Happy Planet Index

Tiny nation beats Western economies on sustainable wellbeing; Europe rises the ranks – Switzerland the only Western country in the top 10

London, UK – The latest Happy Planet Index (HPI) launches today,  ranking the nations of the world according to how efficient they are at creating human wellbeing using our limited ecological resources.

The HPI turns the old world order on its head by highlighting that rich Western nations are inefficient at delivering wellbeing for their citizens. It is smaller, predominantly Latin American countries, that do best.

  1. Costa Rica tops the Happy Planet Index (as it has for every edition since 2009), but its lead is narrowing.
  2. Switzerland jumps to 4th place, becoming the top ranking European country on the Index.
  3. The UK (14th) tops the G7. The USA (122nd) is the lowest scoring G7 nation.
  4. Other Western European countries rank fairly well on the index: the Netherlands (#18), Germany (#29), Spain (#30), France (#31).

Nic Marks, creator of the HPI, said:

“Promoting human happiness does not need to be at odds with creating a sustainable future. The HPI’s mantra is that ‘good lives don’t have to cost the Earth’.”


Countries that rank highly on the Happy Planet Index show that it is possible to live long, happy lives with a much smaller ecological footprint than found in the highest-consuming nations.


Top 10 countries by Happy Planet Index Score score:

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Vanuatu 
  3. Colombia 
  4. Switzerland 
  5. Ecuador 
  6. Panama 
  7. Jamaica 
  8. Guatemala 
  9. Honduras
  10. Uruguay 


The HPI measures “efficiency”, using three indicators to rank nations:

  • Life Expectancy – how long people typically live (United Nations Development Programme)


This is the fifth edition of the Happy Planet index. It was first launched in 2006, with subsequent editions published in 2009, 2012, and 2016

The Happy Planet Index rankings highlight many success stories that demonstrate the possibility of living good lives without costing the Earth – and we’re making progress towards this goal.

Environmental progress, especially in Western Europe – but more must be done

  • Switzerland’s rise in the rankings is due to a sharply falling ecological footprint. It’s worth noting that the country’s overall consumption is not falling that fast, but because of its fast growing population, per capita ecological footprint is falling. 
  • The UK’s declining ecological footprint is mainly due to switching from coal towards more renewable sources of electricity.

Costa Rica: a more efficient economy than the USA

Costa Rica has topped the Happy Planet Index for a fourth time, delivering high life expectancy and high life satisfaction for its citizens at relatively low environmental cost.

  • Costa Rica outperforms the USA on each of life expectancy, wellbeing, and environmental sustainability.
  • Costa Rica’s GDP per capita is less than half that of the USA. Despite this, Costa Ricans have higher wellbeing, and on average live longer. 
  • Costa Rica’s per capita Ecological Footprint is just one third of the size of the USA’s.

Trends in other world regions

  • New Zealand is now in 11th  place; second highest Western country. 
  • Latin America dominates the Happy Planet Index (with 8 of the top 10 highest ranking countries). However, there has been a decline in wellbeing in several countries in South America, including Brazil.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa’s  HPI scores are rising due to rapid increases in life expectancy.

Explore all the data and stories on our new interactive website. 

Notes to editors

  1. The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is the leading global measure of sustainable wellbeing, ranking countries by how efficiently they deliver long, happy lives using our limited environmental resources. The HPI was created by Nic Marks. His 2010 TED talk on the HPI has been watched over 2.5 million times. This is the fifth edition of the Happy Planet index. It was first launched in 2006, with subsequent editions published in 2009, 2012, and 2016.
  1. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) is the leading global coalition of organisations, alliances, movements, and individuals working together to transform the economic system. If you would like to learn more, please visit
  2. Interactive website: This year, the Happy Planet Index features an interactive website, where viewers can explore the data, make comparisons between countries and regions, and view trends over time, from 2006 to 2020. There is also a new ‘Personal Happy Planet Index’ test to help people reflect on how they can create their own “good life that doesn’t cost the earth”.


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