The Future of Happiness Can Be Found in South America

Photo by Frank Kovalchek

Photo by Frank Kovalchek

A while ago I wrote about the World Happiness Index and how I thought that it wasn’t so much about happiness, but about freedom of choice. I did some more research since and it looks like there are as many ‘happy’ indexes as there are countries. For me, two are worth mentioning: The Happy Planet Index and The Better Life Index.

The Happy Planet Index

The Happy Planet Index combines ‘good life’ characteristics with the natural resources a country uses. It measures ‘How much well being do you get for your resources?’ When it comes to happiness, the western world is on top. Again. But they sure need a lot of natural resources to ‘maintain’ their happiness. The implicit question is: ‘For how long can they keep that up?’

On the other hand, a lot of African countries do well when it comes to their ecological footprint. As does most of Asia. Unfortunately, many of those countries are not doing well on happiness. But in the Happy Planet Index they combined several aspects: Well-being, ecological footprint, and life expectancy. And if you do that, something interesting happens. When you consider resource usage in addition to well-being, a couple of countries in Central-America and South-America score very high points. As does Vietnam.

The message from the Happy Planet Index is that it is possible to be happy without destroying natural resources. A good reason to focus on the “soft” aspects, like intrinsic motivators such as purpose and curiosity.

‘The Happy Planet Index highlights the tension between good life now and good life in the future.’

OECD’s Better Life Index

There’s also the Better Life Index, measuring the well-being in 34 industrialized countries. An example: The United Kingdom scored high points on environmental quality, personal security, jobs, earnings, and housing. So while only on spot 22 on the World Happiness Index, they end up higher on this one.

In the Better Life Index website you can play with several switches (topics) that define happiness for you. Life satisfaction, yes, but also housing, income, community, health and so on. Of course I put life satisfaction, work – life balance, jobs, education and community on full throttle. That sure changes the outcome: On top I found Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. Coincident or not; out of those six, four have a legal Happy Melly entities…

Love and keep up the good work,

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  1. Interesting thoughts, nice write-up. Though I’d be quite careful about interpretations on this 😉 Central and South America represent some of the most dangerous cities with the highest criminal rates worldwide. Most of it driven by pure poverty, involving more and more teenagers, who arrange in gangs and are ready to kill for a few bugs. I know, people there still have some magic spirit. They learned to survive, despite all the declining surroundings. But many of them would immediately leave their countries, if they could. Personally I experienced much of it personally, as my spouse’s family lives in Central America. Conclusion: don’t get any statistics mixed up with happiness, cause finally you just get, what you measure … 😉

    Comment by Mike Leber on February 3, 2014 at 6:13 PM

  2. Hi Mike,

    Thanks a lot for your thoughts on this! Of course, you are right. Jurgen Appelo always says: All models are wrong, but some are useful. The same is true about statistics I guess. Apart from that, this wasn’t about the whole of South and Mid America being paradise, but about a couple of countries that really seem to do well when it comes to finding balance between carbon footprint and happiness. You call it a magic spirit, I like that. The world of work needs precisely a touch of that.


    Comment by Happy Melly on February 4, 2014 at 10:46 AM

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This article is written by Vasco Duarte on February 3rd 2014.

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