Press Release – Latin America

press • Published October, 2021

Costa Rica tops latest Happy Planet Index

Tiny nation beats Western economies on sustainable wellbeing; 8 of the top 10 highest ranking countries in Latin America 

London, UK – The fifth edition of the 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.

While Latin America is the best performing world region, several countries have had a decline in rankings, mainly due to falling wellbeing and growing ecological footprints.

  1. Costa Rica tops the latest Happy Planet Index (as it has for every edition since 2009), but its lead is much smaller now.
  2. Colombia, in 3rd place, has had life expectancy steadily improve over time and wellbeing decline sharply since 2014.
  3. Brazil (#21), Mexico (#23), and Venezuela (#46) have dropped in the rankings, mainly due to large declines in wellbeing.
  4. Trinidad & Tobago has the lowest ranking in Central & South America, due to a large rise in ecological footprint since 2015. 
  5. The USA (122nd) is the lowest scoring G7 nation.

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:
  1. Wellbeing – how satisfied people are with their lives (Gallup World Poll)
  2. Life Expectancy – how long people typically live (United Nations Development Programme)
  3. Ecological footprint – how large their environment impact is (Global Footprint Network)
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.

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.

  1. Costa Rica outperforms the USA (#122) 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. New Zealand is now in 11th  place; second highest Western country. 
  2. Declining ecological footprints in Western Europe: Switzerland (#4) becomes the only European country in the top 10. The UK is now in 14th place. But much more must be done.
  3. 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. 

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”.  

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 www.weall.org.

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