Costa Rica might be the “happiest” country on Earth but it knows very little about the actual mental health of its citizens.
That’s according to a new report from the University of Costa Rica School of Psychology that says public health officials have limited data on the mental well-being of the country’s 4.5 million inhabitants.
The report found that there was an “important gap” in the research conducted about what determines mental health and what helps prevent mental illness, according to a press release from the UCR.
The authors of the report recommended conducting a national mental health survey that follows standards set by the World Health Organization. The hope is that the new report, which could be released in 2014, will help mental health practitioners identify at-risk populations and geographic areas and facilitate access to mental health treatment.
The lack of research was especially marked for vulnerable populations, including women, migrants, children, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, the handicapped, and ethnic minorities, among others.
According to CRHoy.com, last year the Health Ministry published a National Mental Health Policy, but the plan came under criticism from academics because many of its assertions were not based on collected data.
The news website added that the survey will interview residents in 10,000 homes in Costa Rica about substance abuse, impulsive behavior, violence and eating disorders, among other topics.
While there is little hard data on Ticos’ mental health, the report did offer a few recommendations to fortify the mind against mental illness. Green spaces, a network of community support, good public transportation, and positive working conditions were listed as some of the factors that contribute to good mental health.