Measuring Global Happiness

Smiley Face With a Question Mark
How do you measure global happiness?

If you go by Marcellus, who tells Horatio “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” then you would have never guessed that Danes are the happiest people on Earth. That’s according to Professor Ruut Veenhoven at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

He is not alone in trying to quantify “happiness.” The New Economics Foundation, in Britain, has relied on the professor’s “happy life years” variable among others to create the “Happy Planet Index.” High levels of consumption appears to be inversely related to the index, while island life makes the planet happier.

It is odd that Vanuatu, which is about to disappear, ranked No. 1 on the index.

Smiley Face With a Question Mark
How do you measure global happiness?

If you go by Marcellus, who tells Horatio “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” then you would have never guessed that Danes are the happiest people on Earth. That’s according to Professor Ruut Veenhoven at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

He is not alone in trying to quantify “happiness.” The New Economics Foundation, in Britain, has relied on the professor’s “happy life years” variable among others to create the “Happy Planet Index.” High levels of consumption appears to be inversely related to the index, while island life makes the planet happier.

It is odd that Vanuatu, which is about to disappear, ranked No. 1 on the index.
The Foundation did a poor job in explaining the highly subjective variables — life satisfaction, happy life years and ecological footprint.

Generally, ‘self-appointed world leaders’ (a.k.a. G-8) ranked lower in the index due to high consumption levels, while Central America had the highest average score for a region. The index does not actually measure “happiness” as much as it claims to measure the ratio between consumption and available resources on the planet.

We should all strive for a sustainable planet, but it should not be based on an unbelievable index that makes little sense. Perhaps the Foundation could have devised a more believable indicator and called it a “sustainability index.”

For the scientific reasons behind HPI’s failure, I defer to Dr. Craig Depken, economy professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, who explains “that while it is possible to be happy with less, it is far easier to be happy with more.”

Calculate your personal Happy Planet Index. You will see why the index is unbelievable. After having taken the personal HPI survey, I would like to tell NEF:

  • I refuse to ride my bicycle 30 miles a day, to and from downtown, and risk being hit by a moving vehicle. This is not geographically small U.K.
  • I don’t eat Big Mac very often. But when I crave it, I will have one. I love vegetables. Did you know bananas are radioactive?
  • I will not walk or ride a bicycle or use otherwise non-polluting vehicle or swim across shark-infested seas to travel from one continent to another.
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