No, it’s not Denmark – though the land of sticky pastries and the Little Mermaid has ranked No. 1 on several other happiness surveys, including a report released at a United Nations meeting earlier this year.
This time, if you believe the U.K.-based New Economics Foundation’s new “Happy Planet Index” that rates 151 nations by measuring ecological sustainability against well-being and life expectancy, Costa Rica wins the smiley face award (for the second year in a row). The index’ data for well-being are taken from the Gallup World Poll, life expectancy is based on the 2011 United Nations Human Development Report, and “ecological footprint” is calculated from data provided by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund).
The Central American country, famous for its ecotourism and the fact that its constitution bans a national military, won praise for “a per capita ecological footprint one third the size of that
of the U.S.,” along with a higher average life expectancy and well-being. (The USA, thanks to its “extremely high” ecological footprint, came in 105 out of 151. )
The other countries that made it to the top of the “Happy Planet Index” are weighted heavily in Central America – Vietnam, Colombia, Belize, El Salvador (which, Costa Rica’s Tico Times points out, also has the world’s second highest murder rate), Jamaica, Panama, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guatemala.
And while it may rank high on Africa travelers’ lists, Botswana earned the index’ worst marks for “low life expectancy, very low levels of experienced well-being, and a moderately high ecological footprint.”
Source: Laura Bly, USA Today