What are really the countries with the best quality of life?

According to the Happy Planet Index, it is not only economic well-being that determines the overall quality of life. And topping the list this year are countries like Vanuatu, El Salvador and Nicaragua. 

The latest updated report of the Happy Planet Index, an initiative launched by the Hot or Cool Institute in Berlin — a public interest think tank exploring the intersection of society and sustainability — was recently presented to the public. Vanuatu, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are the five highest scoring countries.

The Happy Planet Index combines data on well-being, life expectancy and carbon footprint to provide a snapshot of what countries are doing to ensure their citizens live healthy, happy and dignified lives without overburdening the planet. In other words, the index analyses how efficiently countries are managing their resources to provide people with what really matters: health and well-being.

San Salvador, El Salvador. Photo Ricky Mejia via Unsplash

The main result of this year’s report was to assess how — once basic living needs are met — higher levels of consumption do not always translate into greater well-being. Indeed, of the 10 countries with the highest GDP per capita, six have below-average HPI scores. In many rich nations, high levels of consumption and production contribute to ecological collapse without providing health or happiness to citizens.

In general, the correlation between GDP and HPI is very poor and neither should be the only indicator countries use to determine their success.

“The HPI should not replace existing metrics, but encourage countries to democratically adopt alternative measures of progress,” says Dr Saamah Abdallah, head of the Sustainable Wellbeing programme at the Hot or Cool Institute. “Citizens should take the initiative to define what counts and what should be measured”.

Opening image: Nigaragua. Photo Ibrester da Adobe Stock

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