Friday, April 20, 2007

Is Danish happiness a result of their Viking heritage?

Copenhagen Post:

Researchers from time-honoured Cambridge University have reiterated the findings of previous studies showing Danes to be the happiest people in Europe.

A number of studies have come to a similar result and, just this past January, a study from the University of Leicester in the UK crowned Danes as the happiest people in the world.

In the Cambridge study 20,000 people from all European countries were asked their opinions of their home country's government, social conditions and their overall level of contentment. The study found that the highest ratings were generally consistent with citizens who had the most trust in their nation's elected officials.

Christian Bjørnskov, a researcher from Copenhagen Business School, agreed that confidence in the government is a deciding factor in a person's level of contentment. But he also believes Danes' happiness trait may run deeper into the nation's history.

'It may sound strange, but the unique cultural legacy of the Nordic countries which comes from the Vikings can also play a role,' Bjørnskov told Berlingske Tidende newspaper. 'If you look at the Vikings' norms as they are described in the sagas, you find that a word is a word and a man is a man. And the Vikings simply had to trust each other to be successful in war and trade because the distances between them were so great.'

The royal family could be another factor, said Bjørnskov.

'Monarchies have considerably more confident citizens than republics, and that could be because a monarchy is something that unifies them, regardless of who you are. Just think about when Crown Princess Mary visited the Vollmose ghetto last year. Even people who could hardly speak Danish considered her their princess.'

Scandinavian countries' level of social equality also helps make Danes a more confident people, according to Bjørnskov.

'We're relatively equal here in the Nordic countries. Income differences aren't especially great and the social distances are smaller. That gives a higher level of confidence.'

The Cambridge study awarded Danes an 8.3 on its 10-point happiness scale, compared with an 8.06 score for the second-place Finns and 7.98 for the third-place Irish. Italians held Europe's bottom spot, managing only a 6.49.

Lack of trust wipes smile from Greeks


At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Denmark also has one of the stricter immigration policies of the "Nordic" countries - that could be a factor, as well.


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