These are the happiest countries in the world, according to the 2016 Happy Planet Index. The report measures how effectively countries’ residents use their resources to achieve long and happy lives. Nations are rated according to four factors – ecological footprint, inequality of incomes, life expectancy and wellbeing. Somewhat surprisingly, Western countries with high GDPs fare badly in the list. No European countries appear in the top ten, the UK comes in at 34th place, and America languishes at number 108. Instead the highest ratings go to countries in Asia-Pacific and the Americas, which achieve high life expectancy and wellbeing with low ecological footprints. High levels of inequality of incomes within a country drag ratings down considerably, as the research found that this has a strongly adverse affect on happiness. This is the top 12.
1. Costa Rica
Costa Rica tops the list of the world’s happiest countries with a substantial lead. The country entirely abolished its army in 1949, reallocating funds towards education and healthcare. The country spends more on education as a proportion of GDP than the UK and produces 99% of its electricity from renewable sources.
Wellbeing in Mexico is higher than that of neighbouring America, despite its economy being almost five times smaller.
Despite the violent civil war that has battered Colombia since that ’60s, its residents experience high levels of wellbeing and a life expectancy of 74.
A study conducted by Vanuatu’s National Statistics Office found that the country’s tight-knit social communities, which meet regularly to discuss their local issues – contribute to the inhabitants high sense of wellbeing. (
The number of people living in poverty in Vietnam dropped from 58% in 1993 to 11% in 2010. School enrollment is 98% – one of the highest in the world, and the country has an extraordinarily low ecological footprint.
The citizens of the sixth happiest country in the world reported impressively high levels of wellbeing.
This Central American country is recovering well from a brutal civil war that ravaged that nation during the ’60s and ’70s. It scores highly for wellbeing and life expectancy, despite a low GDP.
Bangladesh has an extremely low GDP per capita. But the country does a lot with limited resources – it has a very low ecological footprint and a high life expectancy compared to countries with a similar GDP.
Low income inequality and high life expectancy combine to give Thailand the ninth best happiness index score in the world
Ecuador entered the top ten for the first time in 2016. In 2008 its government adopted a policy of ‘Beun Vivir’ – good living – as a guiding philosophy.
The Caribbean nation has a relatively low GDP, but a high life expectancy of 75 years and a low ecological footprint.
Norway’s free education, public pensions and universal healthcare contribution to the country’s high levels of wellbeing.
(images : Getty)