Denmark is often named the world’s happiest country, most recently in 2013 in the "World Happiness Report", commissioned by the UN. But what are the reasons for the high levels of happiness in Denmark? For the first time, the reasons are explained in a comprehensive report, published by The Happiness Research Institute, a Copenhagen based think tank.
The report “The Happy Danes – Exploring the reasons behind the high levels of happiness in Denmark” explains how a strong civil society, a good work-life balance, and a high level of social security are causes of happiness. It may come as no surprise that free health care and generous unemployment benefits reduce un-happiness; however, the report also points towards more surprising reasons such as a high level of trust among the citizens, which makes life easier and a little happier.
Three out of four Danes believe that they can trust most people. That is a world record. In global terms, only one out of four people believes they can trust most other people. The Danes trust each other. Not just their families and friends, but also the man on the street – people they don’t know – and that contributes to making life easier and happier.
Denmark is a safe country, not just because it is relatively safe to walk the streets at night, but also because the welfare state has reduced a significant amount of the uncertainty associated with illness, age and unemployment. This social security means that Danes can live a less anxious life and thus be happier day-to-day.
We all know the expression ”Money can’t buy you happiness”, but when we look at the research, we cannot avoid the conclusion that wealth does have an impact on happiness. Money is no guarantee for happiness, but a lack of money can easily lead to unhappiness.
There is broad agreement among happiness researchers that social relations are essential for people’s happiness. Closeness to family and friends, good neighbourly relations, and being part of other networks is all contributing to happiness.
According to the World Happiness Report 2012, happiness is a result of ”the ability of people to shape their own lives, and this requires a solid level of freedom.”
The Danes’ freedom is enshrined in the Constitution. No Danish citizen can be imprisoned because of their political or religious beliefs, or background. In other words, personal liberty is inviolable. The same goes for homes and property. This seems obvious, but it is unfortunately a far from universal right.
”We were not surprised to read last week that the Danes topped the UN’s first World Happiness Report,” writes Cathy Strongman in an article headed, ”Copenhagen really is wonderful for so many reasons”, in the English newspaper The Guardian in April 2012.
Strongman explains that, since she and her family moved from London to Copenhagen three years earlier”our quality of life has sky-rocketed and our once staunch London loyalism has been replaced by an almost embarrassing enthusiasm for everything ’Dansk’.” The reason is a better balance between their working life and free time.