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Survey Finds Zimbabweans Are Happier Than Prosperous Neighbors

President Robert Mugabe, centre, shares a light moment with Morgan Tsvangirai, left, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister and his Deputy, Arthur Mutambara after giving their end of year message to the nation, at Zimbabwe House in Harare, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009. Th

Despite persistent economic, social and political hardships, Zimbabweans are a lot happier than their neighbors in stable economies such as South Africa and Botswana, among several other nations.

This, according to a 2012 Happy Planet Index conducted by the British think-tank, the New Economic Foundation, which polled 151 countries across the world.

In the survey, Zimbabwe surprisingly ranked 115th, ahead of South Africa at 142 and Botswana anchoring the table. Costa Rica leads the happiest people log, followed by Vietnam, and then Colombia.

War-torn Iraq, at number 36, fared better than the U.S. at position 105. The survey measured three main factors; life expectancy, well-being and ecological foot print.

And in conclusion, it says, “The 2012 results confirm that we are still not living on a happy planet. No country is able to combine success across the three goals of high life expectancy, high experienced well-being and living within environmental limits.”

Despite Harare’s modest economic improvement, a lot of Zimbabweans still depend on South Africa and Botswana where they are either employed or do trade.

This raises the question: Why then are Zimbabweans - afflicted by years of economic and political instability - happier than their otherwise well-off neighbors?

Happy Planet Index report co-author Sagar Shah explained. "If you are just comparing the numbers for Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana, for example, in Zimbabwe, the number of resources per ecological footprint is 1.2, whereas in South Africa it's 2.6 and in Botswana 2.8."

"Both Botswana and South Africa are using a considerable amount of more resources in terms of their environmental footprint. If you look at the life satisfaction measure of citizens, its not high in Botswana, South Africa or Zimbabwe and the life expectancies in these countries aren't hugely different either."

The survey has become a talking point on radio stations and newspapers in both South Africa and Botswana, with some citizens dismissing it simply as untrue, no matter what methodologies were used.

Economic and social commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said while it may sound far-fetched, the survey’s findings may be accurate, adding Zimbabweans are better off in many respects than their neighbors.