A few months ago the World Happiness Report dubbed the beautiful Denmark as the happiest country in the world. The report is based on six factors including a large GDP per capita, perceptions on corruption (specifically within political leaders), perceptions on generosity, healthy life expectancy, social support, and freedom to make life choices. The countries that make it in the top ten generally rank high in most of these categories, but Denmark landed itself at number one by getting off the chart rankings in all six categories. So what is Denmark doing right? And what can other nations do to climb the global happiness ladder closer to number one?
Side note- the United States currently stands at number 17 on the World Happiness Report.
1. In Denmark, Health Care is both a civil right and a source of social support
Our current health care system is a very controversial and heavily debated topic at the moment, but in the eyes of Danish people, Denmark seems to be doing it right in that area. Citizens of Denmark perceive health care as a basic right and exercise that right to the fullest extent. According to a survey of family medicine in the country conducted in 2012, Danish people visit their primary care physician an average of seven times a year- compared to Americans who seek medical care fewer than four times a year, including emergency room visits. In Denmark the philosophy behind the large number of visits with their primary care physician is that it will provide them a “single advocate who helps navigate them to more complicated care” when necessary. That many visits with your family doctor will establish a good relationship and allow them to get to know you, and your health, on a more personal level.
2. Denmark supports their Moms- and Dads
In America women receive an average of 10 weeks of maternal leave, while our fathers receive no leave at all. Denmark sees paternal leave much differently, giving Danish families up to 52 weeks of leave after the birth of a child. Danish mothers are allotted 18 weeks of maternal leave- and they don’t leave out the fathers- giving them up to 2 weeks of leave with pay! The families are then given the choice to use the time that remains in the 52 weeks as they want and need.
And Denmark’s support for families continues even after the 52 weeks are up, providing all Danish parents with free or low-cost child care. Due to this resource, 79% of Danish women return to work after children, compared to a 59% of American women- meaning they also can return to contributing to the household income.
3. Danish people have each others backs
Denmark prides themselves as being a society that isn’t about cut throat competition and getting ahead at all costs. They instead believe that part of being a citizen means they have a civic duty and responsibility to help those around them. More than 40% of Danish people participate in volunteer work, something that is widely viewed as a necessary and important part of their culture. During the election in September 2011, 87.7% of Danish citizens voted, a number so high it landed them as the highest rated democracy out of all the 30 established democracies, according to the University of Zurich and the Social Science Research Center Berlin.
4. They redefine the term “going green”
Research has shown that in Copenhagen, Denmark’s largest city, 50% of people travel to work and school via bicycle! Not only does that improve health and life expectancy, it also reduces pollution, lowers the number of accidents, and saves the country money. A lot of money! According to researchers, 7.8 cents per kilometer biked- totaling over $34 million every year!
Being happy, fulfilled, and having an overall sense of well-being as a nation is a concept that has been getting a lot more attention over the last few years. And by paying attention to what countries like Denmark or Norway (number two on the Happiness Report) are doing other countries can improve rankings in the six categories the World Happiness Report focuses on.