Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Does well-being equate with being well off?

With many of us feeling the pinch, it can be easy to confuse being better off financially with greater well-being. However, an innovative measure known as the Happy Planet Index (HPI) questions this idea by examining how each country converts the planet’s natural resources into longevity and happiness for its citizens.

Surprisingly, the country with the highest level of well-being amongst its citizens and the highest HPI, is Costa Rica. Costa Rica is by no means the richest country in monetary terms but uses only a quarter of the resources most countries use, and was ranked the 6th happiest nation on Earth by a recent Gallup poll (2010). In contrast, the USA, which uses triple the resources of the average person and whose citizens’ well-being has remained the same over the last 50 years in spite of this, has a HPI of 114 only one place above Nigeria.

So why is this? Perhaps it’s because countries like America measure success in terms of money and material possessions which are not only costly to our bank balance but also our planet. Too much of anything isn’t good for us and money is no exception because up to a point we begin to derive less and less pleasure from our purchases. In fact, people are shown to be happier when they spend money on experiences rather than material goods, and other people rather than themselves.

Fortunately, what contributes most to well-being isn’t harmful to our planet or measured by Gross National Product but by priceless commodities such as strong social, and healthy romantic relationships, accomplishment and a sense of meaning. Therefore in order to be better off financially we should use psychological data to inform our economic decisions which in turn, can improve our lives. Equally, we may improve our well-being by using resources efficiently, adjusting the way we view success and paying more attention to what makes us truly happy

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