The sensitivity of seismic energy dissipation to ground motion and system characteristics is assessed. It is found that peak ground acceleration, peak ground velocity to acceleration (V/A), dominant period of ground excitation and effective response duration are closely correlated with the energy dissipated by a SDOF system. Ductility ratio and damping ratio have no significant influence on the energy dissipation. An energy dissipation index is proposed for measuring the damage potential of earthquake ground motion records which includes the effects of basic excitation and response characteristics contributing to the seismic energy dissipation. The proposed index is compared with several intensity measures for the set of 94 ground motion records considered in the study.