Another Index of Happiness was released this week, with potential to raise much controversy as developed nations score very badly. In this one, Costa Rica, and not Denmark, tops first.
"That the top 10 in the list of “greenest and happiest” nations is dominated by Latin America might raise a few eyebrows, as the region is better known in the western imagination for its slums, inequality and coups. But the Latin Americans score highly, the report suggests, due to non-material aspirations and strong social capital among friends and relatives. The grim performance of the developed world might also prompt some westerners to cast doubt over the value of the report. Among the rich nations, the highest placed country is the Netherlands – but it manages only 43rd... The challenge for the west, the report says, is not to keep increasing incomes but to aim for more meaningful lives and stronger social ties." (Switzerland, by the way, scores relatively well among developed nations, 52. Maybe because of la fete des voisins!)
Despite all problems with such Indexes, I find it valuable to add measures of social capital and ecological footprint to go beyond gpd pc. I can definetly see how some people may prefer Costa Rica over Denmark.
On the other hand, I believe violence indicators could enter such an Index more directly than trough Life expectancy only - having good true friends around, nature, some income, relatively high life expectancy etc mean much less when people have to face violence all the time - which is the case of Kingston, Rio de Janeiro, Bogota or San Salvador, whose countries all rank top 10 in this index. Most of them have drug trafficking as background.
Calculate your own score on the Happy Planet Index if you want to find out "how happy you are and at what price to the environment!"