Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects


Public Health

Additional Departmental Affiliation

Modern Languages

Document Type



Costa Rica’s unofficial slogan “Pura Vida” (“Pure Life”) encapsulates how its people, Ticos, live. Ticos are known as a peaceful, homogenous people but a lack of mental health research limits assessment of Tico mental health status. The purpose of this study is to evaluate Ticos’ personal experiences and opinions to understand better how Costa Rica’s “Pura Vida” culture affects Ticos’ mental health and wellness compared to the United States. A 33-question survey addressing mental health experiences and perceptions was administered to a Costa Rican sample (n = 56) and a United States sample (n = 331). Additionally, 6 interviews were conducted in San Ramón, Costa Rica to explore how Ticos discuss and view mental health in their lives. Survey responses revealed more frequent interference of mental health in Ticos’ personal lives, more difficulty finding mental health treatment, and higher perceptions of stigma around mental health compared to United States participants. Interviews revealed that many Ticos are unaware of mental health resources in their community and that discussions around mental health during childhood were rare. While Costa Rica appears “pura vida”, this study suggests that mental health problems are equally if not more prevalent than in the United States.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Tim Thornberry, Ph.D.


Medicine and Health Sciences | Psychology | Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature