A while back I pondered why it is that Denmark ranks as the happiest country on earth. This little curiosity—Danes reporting higher levels of satisfaction than citizens of any other country—has been occurring for roughly 3 decades.
What’s going on? I mean, this is the place that invented existentialism. Well, a new study on the subject purports to find an answer. Curiously enough, it may actually be related to the reason that they produced Kierkegaard and (at least fictitiously) Hamlet: a certain kind of misgiving about the future.
According to coverage of the study in the New York Times, “Danes continually report lower expectations for the year to come, compared with most other nations.” And, year after year, Danes are surprised to find that things are actually pretty great in Denmark.
On the Freakonomics blog (a fun read, by the way), Stephen J. Dubner postulates that Denmark’s experience may indicate that there is an important difference between relative happiness and absolute happiness. I’d be curious to find out whether there’s any academic merit to Dubner’s line of thinking.
I’d also be curious to find out how daily Danish living translates to such pervasive levels of satisfaction. Again, from the NYT:
Danes “bask in a somewhat colder and cloudier version of the balmy English weather.” They also eat fatty foods and drink a lot…