Press Release – Global

press • Published October, 2021

New Data: 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


  • New rankings from the Happy Planet Index launching 25th October – Show Good Lives Don’t Have to Cost The Earth. 
  • The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is the leading global measure of sustainable wellbeing – Tracking data on wellbeing, life expectancy and sustainability.

Environmental progress made in Western Europe by replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources – but more must be done

  1. Switzerland jumps to 4th place out of 152 countries on the Happy Planet Index, becoming the top ranking European country on the Index
  2. The UK rises to 14th place; now the highest scoring G7 country – The USA being the lowest ranking, at 122nd place. 
  3. Other Western European countries rank fairly well on the index: the Netherlands (#18), Germany (#29), Spain (#30), France (#31).

Costa Rica in 1st place: a more efficient economy than the USA

  1. Costa Rica outperforms the USA on each of life expectancy, wellbeing, and environmental sustainability.
  2. 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. 
  3. Costa Rica’s per capita Ecological Footprint is just one third of the size of the USA’s.

Trends in other world regions

  1. North America falls in the bottom third of rankings of 152 countries: USA (#122) is the lowest ranking G7 country; Canada is not much further ahead, at 105th place.
  2. South Asia and Middle East drops in the rankings; India drops to 128th place out of 152 countries due to significant decline in wellbeing since 2006, but also a rising ecological footprint.
  3. New Zealand is now in 11th  place; second highest Western country. 
  4. 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.
  5. Sub-Saharan Africa’s scores are rising due to rapid increases in life expectancy.
LONDON, 25 OCT: The new Happy Planet Index (HPI) rankings have today been revealed to compare how well nations are creating human wellbeing using their limited ecological resources.

The Happy Planet Index turns the old world order on its head by highlighting how rich Western nations are often inefficient at creating wellbeing for their people. Costa Rica has again been ranked in first place for a fourth time due to its commitment to health, education and environmental protection. In contrast, the USA was placed as the lowest scoring G7 nation at 122nd place, ranking low on both wellbeing and ecological footprint.

The Happy Planet Index measures ‘efficiency’ using three indicators – wellbeing, life expectancy and ecological footprint. It was created by statistician Nic Marks, who said: 

“Promoting human happiness doesn’t have to be at odds with creating a sustainable future. The HPI’s mantra is that good lives don’t have to cost the earth, and after 15 years of rankings, this feels more relevant and timely than ever.”

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. 

The top 10 countries by Happy Planet Index score are as follows:

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

Selected other countries:

11. New Zealand

14. United Kingdom

29. Germany

31. France

35. Ireland

41. Sweden

88. Australia

94. China

105. Canada

122. USA

The full Happy Planet Index rankings are available to view at Users can also take their own personal test to see what country they are most like, and reflect on how they can create their own “good life that doesn’t cost the earth.”


Nic Marks is available for interview, comment and articles to discuss the new data.

For further information or to speak to the founder of the Happy Planet Index, Nic Marks, please contact: Rabia Abrar at 

About 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, founder of NEF’s Centre for Wellbeing. His 2010 TED talk on the HPI has been watched over 2.5 million times. Nic is the founder of Friday Pulse, an online people platform which helps build happy teams.

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.

About The Wellbeing Economy Alliance: WEAll is the leading global coalition of organisations, alliances, movements, and individuals working together to transform the economic system. Our vision is that the global economy is transformed to create shared wellbeing for people and the planet and planet. Our mission is to nurture and promote the movement necessary to transform key economies and ensure that decision-makers prioritise the long-term wellbeing of people and planet. To learn more, please visit


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