Costa Rica Blog

Happiness Resides in Costa Rica

Posted by Steve Linder on Thu, Dec, 24, 2009

It's official, Costa Rica is the happiest place on earth.  According to the New Economics Foundation (nef) a think tank based out of the UK, a good life doesn't have to cost the earth.  nef's second annual Happy Planet Index is based on data from 143 countries representing 99% of the world's population.  The USA ranked 114th. The index is devised by an equation that weighs life expectancy and people's happiness against their environmental impact. Traditionally progress has been measured by a country's GDP.  However financial wealth doesn't necessarily lead to a fulfilling life. The Happy Planet Index (HPI) provides a clear guide to what ultimately matters to us - our well-being in terms of long, happy and meaningful lives - and what matters for the planet - our rate of resource consumption. 

With more than 85% stating that they are happy with their country Costa Ricans report the highest life satisfaction in the world.  Life expectancy is 78.5 years (slightly higher than the US and the 2nd highest average life expectancy in the New World), Costa Rica has the 5th lowest human poverty index in the developing world and the country is nearly perfectly balanced between consumption and preservation of natural resources.  

This is not a matter of chance.  Costa Rica is a haven of democracy and has taken deliberate steps to reduce its environmental impact. Unique in the world for combining its energy and environmental ministries back in the 70's, 99% of its energy comes from renewable sources. Deforestation has been reversed and forests cover twice as much land as 20 years ago.            

Professor Mariano Rojas, a Costa Rican economist at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Mexico, is unsurprised by his country's performance and adds a few further explanations: the abolition of the country's army in 1949, freeing up government money to spend on social programs, solid social networks of friends, families and a sensible work-life balance, rich natural capital, equal treatment of women and strong political participation.

To learn more or view the full index click here: