Vietnam ranks fifth in the world and first in Asia in the 2016 Happy Planet Index drawn up by the UK-based think tank New Economics Foundation.
The country scored 40.3 points in the index that measures sustainable well-being in 140 countries to show how efficiently residents of different countries are using environmental resources to lead long, happy lives.
The index, constructed for a fourth time since 2006, was based on four elements, including well-being, life expectancy, inequality of outcomes, and ecological footprint.
Vietnam had ranked second globally in 2012
It has a population of nearly 90 million, with a life expectancy of 75.5 years and per capita GDP of US$2,000.
According to NEF, Vietnam, characterized by its mountains and tropical forests, is one of just three countries in the top ten Happy Planet Index rankings with an ecological footprint small enough to be considered environmentally sustainable.
Both Vietnam and the Gambia have similar sized economies with similar levels of GDP per capita, yet on average, people from Vietnam live more than 17 years longer.
Vietnam’s inequality of outcomes rating, which measures inequality in well-being and life expectancy scores within the country, is better than that of Costa Rica, which ranked 1st for the third year.
School enrolment is among the highest in the world at 98 percent in 2012, and the number of colleges and universities continues to grow rapidly.
However, NEF found that Vietnam’s ecological footprint has been rising steeply.
An industry-led development path similar to its richer neighbor, Malaysia, would likely see a massive increase in its per capita ecological footprint, which is bad news for sustainability in the region, according to NEF.
The index found wealthy western countries, often seen globally as representing success, do not rank highly on the Happy Planet Index.
Instead, several countries in Latin America and the Asia Pacific region lead the way by achieving relatively high and fairly distributed life expectancy and well-being with much smaller ecological footprints.
Following Costa Rica with 44.7 points was Mexico with 40.7, Columbia and Vanuatu.
Chad was ranked 140th, below Luxembourg and Togo.