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Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index

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Statistician Nic Marks asks why we measure a nation's success by its productivity -- instead of by the happiness and well-being of its people. He introduces the Happy Planet Index, which tracks national well-being against resource use (because a happy life doesn't have to cost the earth). Which countries rank highest in the HPI? You might be surprised.

Nic Marks thinks quality of life is measurable, and that true contentment comes not from the accumulation of material wealth but from our connections with others, engagement with the world, and a sense of autonomy. This isn't just theory: a pioneer in the field of well-being research, Marks creates statistical methods to measure happiness, analyzing and interpreting the evidence so that it can be applied to such policy fields as education, sustainable development, healthcare, and economics.

The founder of the Centre for Well-Being, an independent think tank at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), in London, Marks is particularly keen to promote a balance between sustainable development and quality of life. To investigate this, he devised the Happy Planet Index, a global index of human well-being and environmental impact. The results made headlines: People in the world's wealthiest countries, who consume the most of the planet's resources, don't come out on top in terms of well-being. Which raises the question: What purpose does unfettered economic growth serve?

To measure (and possibly improve) your own HPI, visit two useful sites from NEF: 5 Ways to Well-Being and Well-Being at Work.