Costa Rica: The Happiest Country in the World

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Happiest country in the world - Costa Rica

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is the leading global measure of sustainable well being and Costa Rica ranks #1 of all of the countries analyzed.

The HPI measures what matters: the extent to which countries deliver long, happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them. The Index uses global data on life expectancy, experienced well-being and Ecological Footprint to calculate this.

Not only does Costa Rica abound with natural beauty, from the sandy beaches and ocean waters to the volcanoes and lush rainforests, but the people of this army-free country also report having one of the highest life satisfactions in the world. With a high life expectancy of 79.3 years, locals get to enjoy the pleasant living for years and years. It’s no wonder that their local saying, “pura vida”, loosely translates to “life is good.”  This, along with high levels of experienced well being and moderate ecological footprint resulted in Costa Rica ranking #1.


How is the Happy Planet Index calculated?                                      

The index uses global data on life expectancy, experienced well-being and Ecological Footprint.  The formula multiplies experienced well being times life expectancy and divides that number by the ecological footprint. 

Each of these components is based on a separate measure:

Experienced well-being
If you want to know how well someone’s life is going, your best bet is to ask them directly. In this year’s HPI, experienced well-being is assessed using a question called the ‘Ladder of Life’ from the Gallup World Poll. This asks respondents to imagine a ladder, where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10 the best possible life, and report the step of the ladder they feel they currently stand on.

Life expectancy
Alongside experienced well-being, the HPI includes a universally important measure of health – life expectancy. We used life expectancy data from the 2011 UNDP Human Development Report

Ecological Footprint
The HPI uses the Ecological Footprint promoted by the environmental charity WWF as a measure of resource consumption. It is a per capita measure of the amount of land required to sustain a country’s consumption patterns, measured in terms of global hectares (g ha) which represent a hectare of land with average productive bio capacity.

Other statistics:
GDP per capita ($PPP): $11,569 (around a quarter of the USA's)
Population: 4.7 million (#113 of 151*)
Land area (square km): 51.1 thousand (#117 of 151*)
Population density (people per square km): 91.2 (#63 of 151*)
Governance Ranking (WGI): #40 of 151*

*151 countries were included in the study