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Toasting for the International Day of Happiness from the Happiest Country in Latin America!

Costa Rica retains the title of the happiest country in Latin America, above Uruguay and Panama, according to the World Happiness Report 2022

Sunset at the beach in Costa Rica

Today, March 20, the world celebrates the International Day of Happiness 2022. We at Outlier Legal are toasting from Costa Rica, the happiest country in Latin America, with the global community, in hopes that we all are seeking moments of joy after more than two years of the worst social crisis in over a century.

It’s not just us who say that Costa Rica is the happiest country in Latin America. The World Happiness Report 2022, a publication of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, gives the country that title. Together with Uruguay and Panama, these are the happiest countries on the continent.

Costa Rica has held this title for several years now, and it corresponds with its national attitude of “pura vida,” a phrase often used by ‘ticos’ and ‘ticas’ for greetings. Even though the country faces many problems, its citizens are often regarded by foreigners as warm, joyful and helpful people that don’t find it hard to put a smile on their faces.

“Costa Rica maintains a more favorable position [in the World Happiness Report] than other nations in Latin America, since probably in those nations that do not have the conditions of institutional and social stability that Costa Rica has, the impact [of the pandemic] has probably been greater,” said sociologist Jorge Rodríguez.

In an interview with the Monumental radio station, the sociologist explained that Costa Rica descended some position in this year’s ranking (from the 16th happiest country in the world to the 23rd). This “must be understood within the framework of what happened in the pandemic and the general economic situation” of the country.

Rodríguez added that it should not be overlooked that each person has a different perception of reality and about the moment in which they live. This perception is “highly conditioned by the elements of the environment: the possibility of having a job, losing a loved one, living in a country with high vaccination rates…”

What makes Costa Rica the happiest Latin American country?

According to the latest World Happiness Report, Costa Rica has a score of 6,58 out of 10 possible points. This is explained by its GDP per capita (higher than most of the countries in the region), its social support, its life expectancy, the freedom it gives citizens to make choices, its generosity, and its perceptions of corruption.

Finland is the happiest country in the world, according to the publication. Some other countries that rank better than Costa Rica are Iceland (number 3 spot), Sweden (7), New Zealand (10), Canada (15), the United States (16), and France (20), to mention a few. In contrast, Afghanistan and Lebanon are the saddest countries in the world.

It’s the fifth year in a row that Finland is selected as the happiest country in the world. Consulted by DW, Finnish businessman Jukka Viitasaari said the results don’t surprise him: “Many things are undeniably good here: beautiful nature, we are well governed, many things are in order.”

Finland has a similar problem to Costa Rica: some of its citizens feel rather sad or melancholic, and don’t feel identified with the United Nations calling them “happy.” Viitasaari has an almost perfect answer for that sentiment: “Someone from outside had to tell us that we are fine compared to many other places.”

Pulling that thread, we take the opportunity to say the same thing about Costa Rica. Yes, many things here need solutions. Yes, the economy is not at its best and the fiscal crisis is still going on. Yes, inequality is one of our most urgent problems. But there are so many things that we miss out when we focus only on that.

We speak daily with foreigners that live in Costa Rica or that want to live here, and sometimes it’s through their eyes that we can really see the outstanding country we have. So, if you’re having doubts about this being the happiest country in Latin America, you might as well ask an expat what they think. You’ll likely be surprised.

How Covid-19 affected the world’s happiness

Happiness is not, and cannot be, a constant. It is an emotional state and, as so, it grows and decreases, it goes up and down, you live it and then you miss it. It is important to remember this in light of the two years we all went through. It’s obvious that the pandemic has taken its toll on our collective mental health, but it will not be like that forever.

According to the World Happiness Report 2022, life satisfaction for young people has fallen in these two years, while for those over 60 years old it has risen. Worry and stress are rising, with an 8% growth in 2020 and an 4% growth in 2021, compared to pre-pandemic levels. Anxiety and depression have also been increasing everywhere.

Nevertheless, there’s also good news. “The most remarkable change seen during Covid-19 has been the global upsurge in benevolence in 2021. This benevolence has provided notable support for the life evaluations of givers, receivers, and observers, who have been gratified to see their community’s readiness to reach out to help each other in times of need,” says the report.

According to the United Nations statistics, there has not been a single region in the world that hasn’t shown increases in the proportion of people who give money to charity, help strangers, and do voluntary work. These measures went up by 25% in 2021, compared to pre-pandemic levels, which is honestly amazing.

“Covid-19 has also demonstrated the crucial importance of trust for human well-being. Deaths from Covid-19 during 2020 and 2021 have been markedly lower in those countries with higher trust in public institutions and where inequality is lower,” the study concludes. In summary, we may be sadder, but we are more human today than in 2020.

“The lesson to be drawn from the report, in these ten years, is that generosity between people and honesty of governments are crucial for well-being,” said Jeffrey Sachs, one of the study’s co-authors. “World leaders would have to take it into account.”



Review overview