Originally (= 10 minutes ago), I was planning to write something on the Human Development Index (as the term itself somehow bothers me) or the Gini Coefficient (which I like because of its mathematical simplicity), but then I came across the Happy Planet Index.

This is not a joke. In fact, it is highly interesting to look at as it tries to challenge established measures of “how well is a country doing”!

The index was conceived by the New Economics Foundation and tries to measure the happiness of people in a country, rather than then amount of money they have. To quote from the official website:

“The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is an innovative new measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives.”

How is it computed? The Wikipedia page says:

“… conceptually it approximates multiplying life satisfaction and life expectancy, and dividing that by the ecological footprint. Most of the life satisfaction data is taken from the World Values Survey, but some is drawn from other surveys, and some is estimated using statistical regression techniques.”

What’s also interesting: such a number could be computed on a per-person basis (though I’m not saying that it should). You could every day ask yourself: “How satisfied am I today with my life?” Additionally, you’d probably have to measure your CO2 emissions and your waste production. Do this on a daily basis and, just before you think you’ve finished your job on this planet, you can compute your very own “Happy Person Index” to see how you did in your life.

Probably not very meaningful on a personal level, but still a whole lot more meaningful than looking at your bank account.