Tue, Jul 17, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Iceland ranks top in European table of national happiness

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Iceland is the leader in a league table judging the European country best able to give citizens a long and happy life. Estonia ranked last in the 30-nation survey, while the UK lurked below Romania, at No. 21 in the chart.

The European Happy Planet Index used carbon efficiency, life satisfaction and life expectancy to rate the countries. The survey, published by the New Economics Foundation and Friends of the Earth, reveals that Europe is now worse at creating wellbeing than it was 40 years ago.

"Countries like Iceland clearly show that happiness doesn't have to cost the earth," said Nic Marks, founder of the foundation's Center for Wellbeing.

"Iceland's combination of strong social policies and extensive use of renewable energy demonstrates that living within our environmental means doesn't mean sacrificing human wellbeing," he said.

The Scandinavian countries did best in the survey. Sweden was second, Norway third and Denmark sixth. Immediately above Estonia, at the bottom of the table, were Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Greece.

Andrew Simms, the foundation's head of climate change, said countries with a strong market-led economic model fared least well.

"What is the point if we burn vast quantities of fossil fuels to make, buy and consume ever more stuff, without noticeably benefiting our wellbeing?" he said.

Iceland has its own sustainable energy source, with its volcanic geology, and its government commits more resources to health than any other country in Europe.

Switzerland, which ranked fourth, had the highest life expectancy, at 80.5 years, while Latvia ranked lowest with 70.7.

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