The Happy Planet Index 2024 is out! Using data on wellbeing, life expectancy and carbon footprints, it measures something truly important – how good are countries at helping people to live happy, long lives with little impact on the planet? The latest report contains data from 147 countries.  NOW’s Director, Roger Higman, takes a look.


The Happy Planet Index measures what matters. Conceived by the New Economics Foundation in 2006, it shows the efficiency with which countries turn their environmental footprint into wellbeing and longevity.

The latest Index is the fourth iteration and was published by the Hot or Cool Institute in Berlin last week using data from 2021. It shows that no country could be said to have achieved “sustainable wellbeing” – a high life expectancy and wellbeing within environmental limits – but that “some countries come closer than others, suggesting that good lives that don’t cost the Earth are within reach”. .

Top of the rankings, this time round was Vanuatu. “It achieves a life expectancy of 70.4 years and a self-reported wellbeing score of 7.1 out of 10, all with a carbon footprint that is well below the globally fair share of 3.17 tonnes CO₂e per capita”. Although, people in Vanuatu live ten years less on average than people in the UK, they report being happier than we do on a far lower environmental footprint.

Second place went to Sweden while Costa Rica, which has topped the Index since 2009 fell to fourth. Interestingly, although Western Europe is now the highest scoring region in the world, three of the top five countries were in Central America – well above the UK, which came 19th and the USA which came 102nd.

And for the first time, the 2024 analysis has also compared the Happy Planet scores of people in different income brackets for selected countries such as Denmark, Brazil, Ethiopia and the USA. This shows that the increased carbon footprints of the very rich in these countries don’t necessarily translate into significant gains in longevity and happiness.  As a result, the richer people in these countries have worse Happy Planet scores.

The full report makes a fascinating read to anyone with an interest in wellbeing and how we can all be happy while respecting environmental limits. It’s exciting to see the progress being made, including in parts of Europe and in China, which has improved its score dramatically – but sobering to see the declines in places due to the pandemic and war. You can download it here and explore the data here.

The Hot or Cool Institute has also produced this short film which explores the issues and which is well worth sharing.