Story at a glance
No small task to be the happiest place on earth but the Danes seemed to have romped it in, coming first on the UN World Happiness Report for 2016.
So what’s so special about Denmark that has all the Danes smiling? The World Happiness Report is for the most part based on the social fabric of society. The report looks at seven key variables: real GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity.
This year, for the first time, the World Happiness Report gave a special role to the measurement and consequences of inequality in the distribution of wellbeing among countries and regions. In countries where there was less inequality, the happier the country was as a whole.
“Indeed the Sustainable Development Goals themselves embody the very idea that human wellbeing should be nurtured through a holistic approach that combines economic, social and environmental objectives. Rather than taking a narrow approach focused solely on economic growth, we should promote societies that are prosperous, just, and environmentally sustainable,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University of the report.
The Danes may pay high taxes but that money is spent supporting and giving back to the community. Frankly the Danes are pretty much looked after from the cradle to the grave. Education and universities are free. If you’re sick, you’re looked after with free healthcare and surgery. If you’ve lost your job, there’s generous unemployment funding until you get back on your feet. And family life is a major part of the financial and social support structure. There’s a comprehensive financial parental leave policy coupled with free childcare. And what’s more the Danish trust their politicians. In fact, 79% of Danes trust most people. They feel safe and supported both financially and socially. What’s not to feel happy about that?
And then there’s the unique aspect the Danes embrace called Hygge. A word hard to qualify but essentially meaning being relaxed, being cosy, being kind to yourself, and not denying yourself pleasures. Maybe that’s why they have a 33-hour workweek, so they can sit in the sun and enjoy a beer? Or maybe it’s that every home is focused around a dining table, as family meals are so important in Denmark? Or maybe it’s why they have beautifully simple interiors of white walls and wooden floors, because just looking at a beautiful space or object pleases us and makes us happy.
Whatever it is, it’s making one country whistle on its way to work.