Costa Ricans: The Happiest People on Earth


Anyone who has been to Costa Rica can understand why the people are happy. The natural surroundings are beautiful and well maintained and there is a commitment to peace (the country abolished its armed forces in 1949).

Because of these and other reasons, an op-ed article in the New York Times reports the Dutch sociologists who run the World Database of Happiness lists Costa Rica as the leader in happiness out of 148 nations. On a 10-point scale, ticos earned 8.5, followed by Denmark at 8.3. The report says the U.S. ranked 7th at 7.4, while Togo and Tanzania trail at 2.6.

Apparently a focus on sustainability in preserving its natural landscape and the choice to dissolve the army and invest instead in education has lifted the spirits of the Central American nation’s people. Such heartening prioritizing has allowed the country to score at the top in other happy indicators, such as one that calculates “happy life years” (the U.S. comes in at 19th and Zimbabwe is last) as well as the “happy planet index” operated by the  New Economics Foundation.

According to columnist Nicholas Kristof, “Rising education levels also led the country to preserve its lush environment as an economic asset,” and the country is “an ecological pioneer, introducing a carbon tax in 1997.”

He points out that this commitment to the environment has bolstered rather than threatened the Costa Rican economy, adding that it is one of the few tourist countries seeing migration from the United States. In fact, it has seen such an influx, it has had to take steps to keep its parks and rainforests from feeling the strain of too much impact.

Image: Thombo 2

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.