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Global Happiness Survey: Costa Rica Is World's Happiest Country

(Facebook image)A group of people jubilate at sundown on a beach in Costa Rica.

If you're feeling lonely and want to be in a place where happiness abounds, then Costa Rica is the place to go.

In a global happiness survey recently conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, Costa Rica topped the list of the happiest countries in the world, Forbes.com reported on Tuesday.

Some 40,000 students from around the world took part in the survey, which was part of an online course called "The Science of Happiness," launched by UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center.

Why Costa Rica? What's so special about that Central American country?

Once a sluggish Spanish colony, Costa Rica (Spanish for "rich coast") became one of the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America after it attained independence in the 19th century.

In 1949, Costa Rica did something highly unusual: It abolished its army to join a very short list of sovereign nations without a standing army.

However, the UC Berkeley survey did not take this information into account. Pointing out that a nation's wealth may not be the best indicator of national well-being, the survey says Costa Rica is not a particularly wealthy country but often ranks high in cross-national measures of happiness.

According to the Forbes report, the per capita GDP of the U.S. is about four times higher than that of Costa Rica, but the U.S. ranks only16th in the Subjective Happiness Scale among several countries.

Four other countries that follow Costa Rica in the happiest list -- Croatia, Chile, Malaysia, and Colombia – are also not considered as wealthy countries.

These five countries are also in the 10 lowest ranked countries in the loneliness list. The five are also among the top 10 countries in social connection, suggesting that strong social ties rather than income contribute more to happiness.

The results clearly indicate that money is not the sole basis for happiness, the study says.

Here are the lists of top countries in four different survey scales: Subjective Happiness, Life Satisfaction, Flourishing, and Social Connection.

Subjective Happiness

In this scale, the respondents were asked to rate whether they are happy or unhappy persons. Top 10 countries: 1. Costa Rica; 2. Croatia; 3. Chile; 4. Malaysia; 5. Colombia; 6. Switzerland; 7. Thailand; 8. Czech Republic; 9. Philippines; 10. Bulgaria.

Lowest 10 countries: Iran, Serbia, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Scotland, Saudi Arabia, Latvia, England, and Poland.

Life Satisfaction

In this scale, respondents were asked to appraise the overall conditions of their lives. Top 10 countries: 1. Costa Rica; 2. Chile; 3. Thailand; 4. Colombia; 5. Switzerland; 6. Ecuador; 7. Czech Republic; 8. Austria; 9. Sweden; 10. Malaysia.

Lowest 10 countries: Serbia, Iran, Egypt, Russia, Turkey, Poland, Pakistan, England, Italy, and Ukraine.

Flourishing

In this scale, the respondents were asked to rate their self-esteem, their life's meaning and purpose, and level of optimism. Top 10 countries: 1. Costa Rica; 2. Chile; 3. Thailand; 4. Colombia; 5. Switzerland; 6. United States; 7. Philippines; 8. Mexico; 9. Croatia; 10. Canada.

Lowest 10 countries: Russia, Iran, Poland, Egypt, Japan, Indonesia, Turkey, Italy, Lithuania, and Ukraine.

Social Connection

In this scale, respondents were asked to rate their sense of happiness in relation to the people they encounter in daily life. Top 10 countries: 1. Bulgaria; 2. Pakistan; 3. Croatia; 4. Thailand; 5. Philippines; 6. Costa Rica; 7. Chile; 8. India; 9. Malaysia; 10. Spain.

Lowest 10 countries: Lithuania, Ecuador, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Norway, Russia, Slovenia, and Hungary.

Another Survey

Meanwhile in another similar survey conducted recently by Pew Research, the greatest increases in "life satisfaction" occurred in Asia this year, with satisfaction levels increasing in Indonesia by 35 percent and in China by 26 percent.

But the study rated Mexico as the most satisfied country in the world, and Egypt the least.

Unlike the UC Berkeley study, the Pew survey appears to indicate a direct relationship between GDP growth and increased happiness. But the Pew research also suggests that living in a country that is middle income – not necessarily high income – is what matters for its residents.

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