The subjectivity when it comes to quality of life indicators and of the criteria used to chose them to create a diagnosis of the happiness situation, on a planetary scale, produce rather uneven results, that are living proof of the subjectivity with which we face what's really important for our happiness and the ease with which, with some craftiness and art, the treatment and presentation of these indicators, favouring the criteria that best fits their purpose, can influence public opinion.
Adrian G. White, a psychology researcher for the University of Leicester has created a Worl Map of Happiness by crossing a significant number of data and research done all over the world: an analysis done in 2006 for the NEF by Nic Marks, Andrew Simms, Sam Thompson e Saamah Abdallah and data supplied by UNESCO, UDR and the CIA Factbook. White took into account 178 countries, double the number of countries analysed by Ruut Veenhoven in the World Database of Happiness and he gave priority to social and economical indicators, such as life expectancy, access to education and GDP per capita.
It's not strange that, with these indicators, the top ten countries include six countries from Western Europe, and that, out of these six countries, four are from northern Europe, well-known for their advanced social systems: the first place goes to Denmark, followed by Switzerland, Austria, Iceland, Bahamas, Finland and Sweden, with Bhutan and Brunei in the 8th and 9th positions. The USA are in 23rd place, Portugal in 92nd and Brazil is 81st, stuck between China and Uzbekistan.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF), a British "think tank", which reflects about economy and well-being, and NGO Friends of the Earth, have created the World Colour-Coded HPI, based on the Happy Planet Index (HPI) concieved taking into account three criteria that favour countries which put a smaller pressure over the environment: life satisfaction, life expectancy and "ecological footprint", which measures the impact of human activities on the environment and measures how much land area a country needs to produce what it consumes and absorb the waste it produces. The same source was used to create this map as White's in his Worl Map of Happiness.
Considering these indicators it's curious to find countries like Vanuatu, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala and El Salvador on the top of the list, whereas richer countries are confined to the bottom of the list, with Portugal in the 136th position and Brazil in the 63rd place in a ranking of 178 countries.
These studies and their implications raise serious questions about our concept of development and quality of life, which has been linked, for too long, with a consumerist society, and the consequent measures that have to be taken on a global scale, in order to establish a policy of sustainable development and fairer wealth distribution, in spite of the individual right to be different (including the right to refuse happiness).
Humanity faces no other choice than to drastically change its burdensome, inconsistent and unsustainable way of facing its existence on this planet, if it wants to extend its stay, without ruining the only physical resource it really has: the planet.