If you are looking for the “happiest” country on earth, don’t look to the USA. At least that is the message from the Happy Planet Index, which rates 151 countries.
The Happy Planet Index (HPI) finds that the happiest country is Costa Rica, followed by Vietnam, Columbia, and Belize. The index rates the USA as the 105th happiest.
According to the website, “The HPI measures what matters: the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them. The Index uses global data on life expectancy, experienced well-being and Ecological Footprint to calculate this.”
According to the site, “The HPI uses the Ecological Footprint promoted by the environmental charity WWF as a measure of resource consumption. It is a per capita measure of the amount of land required to sustain a country’s consumption patterns, measured in terms of global hectares (g ha), which represent a hectare of land with average productive biocapacity.”
In fact, the HPI claims that economic activity is particularly untrustworthy. Nations that are richer than others apparently aren’t happier, according to the index.
Oddly, the HPI doesn’t seem to measure “human rights abuses,” no matter how they might be measured. This must explain why China is rated at the 60th happiest country despite the fact that it is also one of the biggest human rights abusers in the world.
Another oddity of this measurement of “happy” nations is that Venezuela comes in at 9th place.
Yet, a recent New York Times article noted that Venezuela is more dangerous than Iraq.
“In Iraq, a country with about the same population as Venezuela,” the Times wrote in 2010, “there were 4,644 civilian deaths from violence in 2009, according to Iraq Body Count; in Venezuela that year, the number of murders climbed above 16,000.”
It hasn’t gotten any better since 2010. This year, Caracas, Venezuela came in as the second most dangerous city in the world. And Caracas wasn’t the only Venezuelan city on the most dangerous list. Barquisimeto, Ciudad Guayana, Maracaibo, and Valencia all made the list this year.
Yet, Venezuela isn’t just a little better than the USA in the Happy Planet Index; it is far and away “happier.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org