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The Secret Behind Those Happy Danes

Happiness Research Institute      Jesper Brochmands Gade 10    2200 Copenhagen N     Denmark     +45 6170 7988

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.


“We are pleased to present some of the pieces to the Danish happiness puzzle”, says Meik Wiking, Director of The Happiness Research Institute “especially at a time when countries around the world are taking steps to measure their success as a society not only on standard of living, but from quality of life.”


The report is based on a massive survey, in which around 10,000 Danes responded to questions about their happiness, interviews with a long range of the world’s leading happiness experts, and a comprehensive study of academic papers explaining international differences in subjective well-being.  In recent years an increasing body of evidence has shown that happiness can be measured and can be used to inform policy makers, who are increasingly becoming more open to the idea of finding new ways to measure progress, and enhance the quality of life for citizens.


The 8 ingredients in the Danish recipe for happiness:

Denmark holds the highest level of trust in the world (Danes happily leave their babies in strollers outside shops and cafés while running errands), and the high level of social security reduces concerns and anxiety for the Danes. Wealth also explains why some countries are happier than other, and furthermore Danes enjoy a high level of freedom through free university education and gay rights. Work in Denmark is characterized by autonomy and flexibility, and allows for time with family and friends through a world class work-life balance. Furthermore, Denmark has a well-developed democracy with a high level of political participation, good governance and a low level of corruption, and finally a strong civil society ensures high quality social relationships among the citizens, which is a major determinant for happiness.


Download the report here.


For further information contact Meik Wiking, Director, The Happiness Research Institute at

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