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Why Denmark is Ranked the Happiest Country in the World
Something as value-laden as the word happiness might seem a peculiar place to start human research: is happiness Aristotle’s “Eudemonia,” or the Beatle’s “Warm Gun?” Yet a study that has assigned what quantifiable datum constitutes happiness has rated world countries accordingly, and found Denmark to be the happiest.
“The top countries generally rank higher in all six of the key factors identified in the World Happiness Report,” wrote University of British Columbia economics professor John Helliwell, a contributor to the study, as reported in the Huffington Post. “Together these six factors explain three quarters of differences in life evaluations across hundreds of countries and over the years.”
The six factors by which happiness is determined touch on government and personal concerns such as life expectancy at birth, GDP per capita, corruption in the leadership, as well as a sense of social support, freedom to make life choices, and a culture of generosity. Whether the greatest times and places in world history, such as ancient Athens, 1st century Jerusalem, or Renaissance Italy would rank as “happy” by these scales is unlikely, despite that they were great and created the art, philosophy, religion and values which have most influenced the world.
Nevertheless, given that we are to accept happiness as the ultimate end of man, what makes Denmark so happy?
“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they characterize their well-being,” said economist Jeffrey Sachs in a statement, suggesting that happiness relates to what ideas we happen to have in our head regarding happiness.
Denmark’s difference comes from giving more maternal leave than, say, America, with 52 weeks granted to women, and American women given only 10.3 week. They also provide free or low-cost childcare, allowing 79 percent of women to return to their previous level of employment, compared to 59 percent of American women.
Health care is a civil right, and the Danes visit their doctors 7 times a year, compared to 4 in America, and furthermore, they visit their primary doctor, who is able to integrate their medical charts and interrelate progress.
“This gatekeeping system essentially is designed to support the principle that treatment ought to take place at the lowest effective care level along with the idea of continuity of care provided by a family doctor,” wrote the authors.
The country has also achieved a high level of gender parity, which is emphasized in their value system, and, as Katie J.M Baker explains, “Unlike in America, where bestsellers goad already overworked and underpaid women to Lean In even further, the assumption in Denmark is that feminism is a collective goal, not an individual pursuit.”
The company also bikes quite often, with half of commuters in Copenhagen on bikes, which not only is good exercise, but saves taxpayers money.
The harsh environment is combated with the idea of “hygge,” that the should create a warm, loving, indulgent and cozy scene to beat the winter blues. Chocolate, coffee, and wine help alleviate the gloom.
And lastly, the Danes have a high sense of responsibility for one another.
“Denmark is a society where citizens participate and contribute to making society work. More than 40 percent of all Danes do voluntary work in cultural and sports associations, NGOs, social organizations, political organizations, etc. There is a wealth of associations: in 2006, there were 101,000 Danish organizations – worth noting in a population of just 5.5 million.”
One could also note that Denmark is an especially atheistic state, with only 28 percent of its citizens willing to say “I believe there is a God.” Compare this to 90 percent of Americans who claim “I believe there is a God.”