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The Happy Planet Index, is a recent - launched July 2006 - index from nef - the New Economics Foundation. This page is about the index and comment for the UK. For a more general worldwide picture and further details about the index please go to the main Happy Planet Index article.

Summary Edit

The UK manages only 108th place (out of 178 nations) in the Index: Just below Libya, but above Laos.

  • Life satisfaction: 7.1
  • Life expectancy: 78.4
  • Ecological Footprint: 5.4 g ha (global hectares per person)
  • HPI: 40.3

nef comment Edit

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom, Britain, or the UK) occupies most of the British Isles off the northwest coast of mainland Europe. A member of the G8, the United Kingdom has a highly industrialised economy with the fifth-largest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world and the second largest in Europe after Germany. But our financial wealth doesn't seem to be making us any happier.

UK's heavy ecological footprint Edit

Our heavy ecological footprint, the eighteenth biggest worldwide, is largely to blame for the UK's position on the Index. The UK's total ecological footprint is 5.4 global hectares per person compared with a world average of 2.2. If everyone on Earth lived as we do in the UK, we would need 3.1 planets to support us.

Main constituents of the UK's ecological footprint Edit

So what are we consuming so much of? The main constituents of the UK's ecological footprint are

  • home and energy (1.16 g ha)
  • food and drink (1.14 g ha)
  • travel (0.84 g ha)
  • capital investment (0.76 g ha)
  • consumables (0.65 g ha)

Regional differences Edit

Regionally, however, there is quite significant variance within the UK. About a quarter of the UK's 59 million population live in England's financially prosperous south-east - the region with the highest footprint of all the developed administrations and English regions - an earth destroying 6.3 global hectares per person.

In South East England, the pressure of this footprint is increased by financial prosperity - higher income means greater access to resources, a very high travel demand dominated by low-occupancy, high-polluting vehicles, long distance exotic holidays more than once a year and large and often old inefficient homes with low occupancy compared to their size all contribute to a heavy, and ultimately unsustainable environmental footprint.

How the UK compares Edit

To make matters worse, our over-use of the earth's resources isn't making us any happier. Our well-being is unspectacular for a Western nation and is bettered by countries such as Germany, the USA, Costa Rica, Malta and, in top place, Switzerland. Of the 20 countries with higher well-being, nine our doing it with a smaller footprint than ours - Malta's is 3.5 g ha, whilst Costa Rica's is below the world average at 2.1g ha. Our European neighbours, the Swiss, live on average almost three years longer than we do, are significantly happier and have a slightly smaller environmental footprint than the UK. And, when looking across Western Europe, the Austrians, The Dutch, the Belgians, the Irish and the Germans are all happier than we are.

Groups which are least happy Edit

One way to consider levels of well-being in the UK is to look at which groups are least happy. Whilst wealth by no means guarantees happiness, deprivation certainly limits it. In a separate study, nef found that people living in areas classified by the UK Government as suffering high "multiple deprivation" (related to crime, unemployment, poor housing and education, etc.) report lower life satisfaction than less affected areas. If conditions were improved in these areas, perhaps the UK's mean life satisfaction would edge up to top those of, for example, Australia and Belgium.

Related topics Edit

Wanted pages and external links

  • The Happy Planet Index - Visitors to the site will be able to calculate their own, personal `Happy Planet Index' score, and get advice on ways in which they can improve their personal well-being without costing the Earth.
  • New Economics Foundation


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