UK citizens better off than EU counterparts, says happiness inde

Happy Planet index says UK performs well among developed countries, but developing world dominates top 10 places

People in the UK are better off than those in any other European Union or G8 country – despite the recession – according to a new index ranking countries according to their perceived level of happiness, life expectancy and environmental factors.

However the Happy Planet index, produced by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and coinciding with the UN’s Rio+20 sustainable development conference, showed that developed countries including the UK are falling behind many poorer nations when it came to “sustainable wellbeing”.

Costa Rica, Vietnam and Colombia topped the poll because of their low environmental impact, relatively good life expectancy and high levels of contentment reported by their citizens.

Eight out of the top nine countries in the index are from Latin America or the Caribbean, despite high levels of poverty.

Developed countries are penalised in the index because they tend to have a high “ecological footprint” – reflecting the amount of resources they consume and the resulting environmental degradation. For instance, Costa Rica – with relatively low-carbon emissions and good biodiversity – has an ecological footprint that is only about one-third as big as that of the US, which takes 105th place in the table.

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