In their online course “The Science of Happiness”, UC Berkeley measured the subjective happiness of more than 40,000 students from 58 countries. The Qualtrics survey measured happiness according to several metrics, including loneliness, sense of flourishing, social connectivity, overall subjective happiness and others. Though the students who took the test surely are not a perfect representation of the population as a whole, social scientists have not been surprised with these results. Costa Rica frequently scores high on this and similar tests, as do many other similar countries, despite their smaller size and GDP, relative to the world’s wealthiest nations. Here are some insights gleaned from the survey.
- Social connectedness is a Greater Factor in Happiness Than Wealth. Though Costa Rica’s GDP is only about a quarter of the USA’s, per citizen, personal happiness well outpaces that of America’s citizenship. Due to high scores on community-related metrics, Costa Rican culture may be described as “collectivist”, at least relative to the US and England, among others. And while Costa Ricans may look to Europe for their spread betting needs, the country seems self-sufficient when it comes to the economics of satisfaction.
- The Culture of Individualism Matters. According to answers given on these tests, Costa Rica is much less individualistic than the US and many other nations. There was one category related to happiness, “Flourishing”, which the United States scored very well on (though Costa Rica still scored higher). Flourishing, as measured by this test, is related to one’s sense of being competent and compensated for performance in areas of personal interest. People have long described the US as an individualistic nation, where personal achievement is a big priority. According to the results of this test, it would seem that this hasn’t changed, and that if this is the “American Dream”, the dream is still alive enough to score the US at #6 on this test. In contrast, America scores poorly on “Life Satisfaction”, whereas Costa Rica is #1. It would seem that, even if individual potential isn’t satisfied in the same way as it is in the US (at least among students, an already privileged class), this isn’t the end of personal fulfillment by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it would seem that other characteristics are much more important.
- Stress Matters. Only Thailand beat out Costa Rica in terms of perceived stress levels. The next highest scores (measuring overall lowness of stress) were Malaysia, Switzerland, Croatia, and Chile (a frequent high scorer on these charts).
Of course there are many measures of happiness, a trait too nuanced for any test. One demographic among many can’t possibly speak for the diversity of an entire population, but if Costa Rica’s students are any measure, Costa Rica is definitely one of the happiest places on earth. For natives and visitors alike, it is a unique haven for human satisfaction.
The Costa Rica News (TCRN)