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The world's happiest nations

Last updated on: July 24, 2009 

The world's happiest nations

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Do you want to live a long, happy and meaningful life? In the process, would you also like to ensure you are not abusing the Earth's resources? Then, you might want to make plans to move to Latin America.

According to the Happy Planet Index, published recently by the New Economics Foundation, Latin American countries have high scores when it comes to happiness.

The new index is based on improved data for 143 countries around the world, representing 99 per cent of the world's population.

The HPI environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which people live long and happy lives.

So find out which are the world's happiest countries, according to the New Economics Foundation. . .

Image: Children laugh during Muineira's Day (day of dancing) in Pontevedra, Spain.
Photographs: Miguel Vidal/Reuters
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1. Costa Rica

Costa Rica tops the Happy Planet Index 2.0.

Costa Ricans report the highest life satisfaction in the world, have the second-highest average life expectancy of the Americas (second only to Canada) and have an ecological footprint that means that the country only narrowly fails to achieve the goal of 'one-planet living': consuming its fair share of the Earth's natural resources.


Image: A Costa Rican child touches a mask at the start of the mask festival in Barva de Heredia, near the capital San Jose.
Photographs: Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters
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2. Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is the second-largest Caribbean nation (after Cuba). According to the Happiness Index, its people have a high sense of well-being, even if their consumption levels don't match the global standards.

Image: Dominican Republic revellers take part during the end of the national carnival in Santo Domingo.
Photographs: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
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3. Jamaica

Jamaica, an island nation of the Greater Antilles, is situated in the Caribbean Sea. It is the third most populous English-speaking country in North America, after the United States and Canada. It remains a Commonwealth nation, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

Many of the countries that have scored well on the Happiness Index are composed of small islands.

Image: Britain's Prince Charles laughs with a Jamaican drum player during a tour the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston.
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters
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4. Guatemala

A biodiversity hotspot, Gautemala is located in Central America. Transportation, communications, business, politics and most of the relevant urban activity takes place in its capital, Guatemala City.

There is only one highway that traverses the greater communities of the country. Some coastal towns are accessible only through the coast by boats.


Image: A woman dances to celebrate the founding of the tiny port town of Livingston, Gautemala
Photographs: Daniel LeClair/Reuters
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5. Vietnam

Officially known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, this is the 13th most populous country in the world.

A single party state, it is known for the Vietnam War in which it battled the most powerful nation in the world, America. The economy of this historically agricultural civilization, based on wet rice cultivating, was destroyed by the war.

After many decades of hard work, Vietnam is today one of Asia's most open economies: two-way trade is around 160 per cent of the GDP, more than twice the ratio for China and over four times India's.

Image: A farmer tends to peach blossom trees in her garden.
Photographs: Kham/Reuters
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6. Colombia

The Republic of Colombia, located in northwestern South America, has a long tradition of constitutional government and is the fourth largest economy in South America.

It is very ethnically diverse, and the interaction between the descendants of the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, African slaves and twentieth-century immigrants from Europe and the Middle East has produced a rich cultural heritage.

Ecologically, Colombia is one of the world's 18 megadiverse countries.


Image: An artist in Colombia
Photographs: Courtesy: colombiainfo.com
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7. Cuba

An island country in the Caribbean, the Republic of Cuba adheres to socialist principles in organising its largely state-controlled planned economy.

Historically, Cuba has ranked high in numbers of medical personnel and has made significant contributions to world health since the 19th century. Today, it has universal free health care and, though it suffers shortages of medical supplies, there is no shortage of medical personnel.

According to the UN, the life expectancy in Cuba is 78.3 years. This ranks Cuba 37th in the world, just ahead of the United States. 


Image: A man walks out of a building adorned with a portrait of Che Guevara and the word 'revolution' in Old Havana.
Photographs: Jorge Silva/Reuters
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8. El Salvador

El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America.

It has the third largest economy in the region (behind Costa Rica and Panama) when comparing nominal Gross Domestic Product and purchasing power GDP. Though its economy has been hampered by natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, it currently has a steadily growing economy.

El Salvador has one of the lowest tax burdens in the American continent (around 11 per cent of GDP). Its inflation rate is amongst the lowest in the region.


Image: A Salvadoran child poses for photographs beside an image of the virgin of Guadalupe outside the Basilica of Guadalupe in San Salvador.
Photographs: Luis Galdamez/Reuters
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9. Brazil

The highest-ranking G20 country in the Happiness Index. the Federative Republic of Brazil is also the fifth most populous country in the world. Located in South America, it is also the fifth largest country by geographical area.

Brazil is the world's tenth largest economy at market exchange rates and the ninth largest by purchasing power parity. Brazil is one of the four emerging economies, called BRIC.

Brazilian exports are booming, creating a new generation of tycoons.


Image: Revellers of Viradouro samba school dance atop a float during the second night of the Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome.
Photographs: Fernando Soutello/Reuters
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10. Honduras

Honduras, a democratic republic in Central America, is a biodiversity hotspot.

Its conomic growth in the last few years has averaged 7 per cent per year which has been one of the most successful growths in Latin America.


Image: A young man crafts a drum in the community of Sambo Creek on the northern coast of Honduras.
Photographs: Tomas Bravo/Reuters
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Here are some more infobytes:

No single country achieves an overall 'high' score on the index, and no country does well on all three indicators -- life expectancy, life satisfaction and ecological foot print.

India, the United States of America and China were all 'greener and happier' 20 years ago than today.

India ranks No. 35 on the list, while China is ranked at No. 20. Australia is listed at No. 102.

The United Kingdom comes 74th, and the USA 114th out of 143 nations surveyed.


Image: People get drenched by a large wave during high tide at Mumbai's seafront.
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters
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