The latest Happy Planet Index puts Vanuatu second in the world in terms of sustainable well-being. To determine a country’s score on the Happy Planet Index, they look at a country’s well-being, multiplied by their life expectancy and then divided by their ecological footprint.
The only country with a better Happy Planet Index score is Costa Rica, with 62.1. Vanuatu is second with a score of 60.4, followed by Colombia (60.2), Switzerland (60.1) and Ecuador (58.8).
Although the Happy Planet Index helps to highlight the importance of living sustainably and trying to slow down climate change, is the sustainable happiness score the same as people’s overall satisfaction with their lives?
Not really. The well-being indicator is probably more indicative. To assess well-being, people in each country are asked to rate the quality of their lives overall on a scale from 0 (horrible) to 10 (the best life you could ever imagine).
The majority of the well-being data is taken from the Gallup World Poll, but Vanuatu is not usually included in this Poll. Therefore, the Happy Planet Index gives us an excellent chance to compare Vanuatu to the rest of the world regarding how satisfied their residents are with their lives compared to residents of other countries.
Here are the top 20 countries:
- Finland = 7.84 (out of 10)
- Denmark = 7.62
- Switzerland = 7.57
- Iceland = 7.55
- Netherlands = 7.46
- Norway = 7.39
- Sweden = 7.36
- Luxembourg = 7.32
- New Zealand = 7.28
- Austria = 7.27
- Australia = 7.18
- Israel = 7.16
- Germany = 7.16
- Canada = 7.10
- Ireland = 7.09
- Costa Rica = 7.07
- United Kingdom = 7.06
- Czech Republic = 6.97
- Vanuatu = 6.96
- United States = 6.95
Vanuatu isn’t the happiest country on the planet, but the residents of Vanuatu are, on average, quite satisfied with their lives. However, the loss of tourism with the COVID-19 pandemic and the international border closures have made it financially challenging for many people. The capital city of Port Vila can also be quite expensive to live in.
Many young people are also travelling to Australia and New Zealand to work on farms and make as much money as possible. This leads to better financial opportunities for them, their families and communities. However, it also puts pressure on their partners, families and communities left behind while the young people work overseas for months and sometimes years.
The big positives in Vanuatu seem to be the connection that people have to their country, island, land and community. There are close-knit kinship and family ties and minimal large-scale conflict and political unrest.
Vanuatu is also a beautiful country with an exceptional natural environment and many people that want to preserve these resources as much as possible. For example, Vanuatu was one of the first countries to ban plastic drinking straws and plastic bags.
Work is also not an overly important aspect of many people’s lives. Following a death, people grieve with their family and friends and don’t rush back into their daily activities. Vanuatu also allows for up to 21 sick days per year, more public holidays than pretty much any country in the world, and 21 annual leave days a year too.
Based on the 2021 World Happiness Report, Finland once again wins the happiest country on the planet. Vanuatu is not the happiest country globally, but it is in the top 20 in the world. It is also a more joyful place than the USA, France, and many other countries around the globe.
By looking at surveys such as the Happy Planet Index or the World Values Survey, it is possible to see which places may be the best fit for you. If you really care about the environment and climate change, Costa Rica and Vanuatu will be right up there for you.
An excellent work-life balance, close connections with the important people in my life, not too much stress, lots of relaxation, beautiful natural resources and a population that feels like they are living a pretty good life are essential to me.
Dr Damon Ashworth