Denmark was mentioned to be the "Happiest Nation" in an international survey while also having the highest taxes in the world. As I examined the Danish culture closely, I managed to understand the true nature of their kind of "Happiness".
World's happiest nations are... (Top 10)
The Happiest (and Saddest) Countries
Very Flawed and Subjective Global Happiness Survey
The international survey to gauge people's level of "happiness" was actually very flawed, because firstly, the interpretation of the Happiness emotion is very subjective and people from the different countries interviewed might not be referring to the same emotional state when the survey was conducted. My definition of Happiness is based on freedom/liberation. Secondly, it is not the same group of people who are measuring Happiness across different countries therefore there is no real comparison and measurement of the same thing. Therefore, the global Happiness survey is pretty much asking people of different nationalities what they feel of something that is only found in their own country.
Oprah in Denmark
From a TV segment where Oprah visited Denmark, the Danes mentioned their source of Happiness as coming from many areas. They value group gatherings, contentment, a sense of financial and social security as the main factors of their Happiness. Oprah interviews one of the Danish women and asks whether Denmark practices socialism and she said no.
Oprah Visits Denmark Part 1
Oprah Visits Denmark Part 2
Women Around the World
60 Mins on Denmark
The young Danish students interviewed in a 60 Mins interview might seem very confident and speaking too soon on not requiring much money to feel happy, but wait till they get older and enter the workforce and start a family would they fully realize the importance of money as crucial for basic happiness.
And The Happiest Place On Earth Is...
Morley Safer On Why The Danes Are Considered The Happiest People On Earth
High Pollution-Contributing Rate From Meat-Eating
Denmark is among one of the heaviest consumers of meat in the world ranked at 9th and 11th places in different reports. The meat industry is one of the heaviest production of pollution, green house gases and suffering to animals. Although cycling is one of the main modes of travel for the Danes, I don't think it can offset much of their contributed pollution that comes from animal farming. It seems that cold cut meats are very convenient and matches very well with their staple of dark rye bread, but such a convenience comes with a huge expense at the planet's ecosystem.
(Denmark ranked at 9th place)
Ranking of 171 Countries by Per Capita Meat Consumption (MC), 2005
15 Michelin stars for Danish restaurants
Meat: Making Global Warming Worse
The No.1 Ranking for Cancer Rate in the World
Grilled red meat shops are popular in Denmark and Denmark has the highest number of meat-cooking grills per capita. This high consumption of red meat correlates with Denmark having the top spot for the rate of cancer for all countries in the world, which seems too high of a direct correlation even if their free medical system allows more people to be detected from the life-threatening disease. The exercise the Danes get from cycling don't seem to be able to offset the effects of the toxins that come from eating cooked meat.
(Even a Danish Professor from the Department of Public Health at a Danish University has advised on the cutting down of red meat)
Barbecue season: cut down on the red meat.
Cancer rate per 100,000 ranked 1st in the world
Data for cancer frequency by country
Denmark Leads the World in Highest Cancer Rates
Why is Denmark the cancer capital of the world?
bladder cancer rate per 100,000 ranked 9th in the world
breast cancer rate per 100,000 ranked 9th in the world
colon-rectum cancer rate per 100,000 ranked 6th in the world
lung cancer rate per 100,000 ranked 6th in the world
ovary cancer rate per 100,000 ranked 11th in the world
Denmark Having One of the Highest Alcohol Death Rate at 4th Place
Alcohol death rate per 100,000 ranked 4th in the world
Youth Drinking Culture in Denmark
Denmark Ranked 11th in the World for Suicide Rate(Data is for 2005)
World suicide rates by country(per 100,000)
(January 15, 2014)
Rising number of suicides on train tracks
Happiest places have highest suicide rates says new research
Putative Effect of Alcohol on Suicide Attempters: An Evaluative Study in a Tertiary Medical College
Denmark Ranked 4th in the World for Anti-Depressant Consumption
The OECD Warns on Antidepressant Overprescribing
(January 7, 2014)
Antidepressant regulations tightened following suicide
(A comment from a Danish reader)
"Calvin Bernhardt — Denmark is facing some serious problems with a large population of distraught young people. You can't put everyone on Prozac. People need a purpose in life."
It seems like drug medication for ADHD is also on the rise in Denmark--
(April 15, 2013)
Boom in number treated for ADHD
Highest Household Debt in the World
Denmark has the highest household debt in the world, no doubt their high taxes and 25% goods and service tax being some of the main contributors. While their high tax rate has enabled Denmark to have the supposed smallest rich-poor gap in the world, I perceive the small gap to represent the bridge between those in financial debt and those who are not.
World-Beating Debt Burden Is No ‘Serious Threat’ to Denmark
A Nation of Complainers
The Danes complain about many things including their high taxes. One Dane even has written a book just to thoroughly complain about his country having many people suffering from narcissism and collectivism. You will get to read about some of the most horrible and miserable Danes that he observed first-hand in Denmark.
Denmark the most awful nation on earth. Collectivism's biggest propaganda hoax.!
His Facebook Profile
Facebook Page of His Book
His YouTube Channel
Does Denmark Practice Socialism?
I have heard some Danes commenting that Denmark is a socialist society but I am quite confused by all their different descriptions and how it doesn't fit in with the definitions mentioned elsewhere. I do not think that all Danes practice socialism, but the kind of welfare state management does make it a good foundation for socialism, collectivism and communism to occur, whether or not their government and some of its citizens officially declare to be supporters of such practices. Denmark does have a Socialist People's Party in the Government.
Danish PM Blindsided as Ministers Quit in Goldman Spat
Denmark Described to Be Horrible
A Social Anthropologist on Denmark
How a Welfare State Such as Denmark Can Fail For Some Citizens
To survive well in Denmark, one has to take good advantage of the free education and free medical care to later on earn a good salary. If one doesn't take advantage of the free education in Denmark to study up to the university level, one could end up with a comparatively low-paying job and end up in financial debt and social welfare as one starts a family, which could then lead to the consumption of anti-depressants, alcohol abuse and suicide.
Some Danes have claimed that Denmark has the smallest gap in social disparity. However, this small gap only seem to apply on the financial aspect. For other areas like mental health, physical health and Happiness, there seems to be a very large gap between 2 distinct groups of Danish people — a gap that seems to be the largest in the world.
Margaret Thatcher on Socialism
Since not everyone in society has high-enough intelligence to complete a university degree, there would always be people who would not be able to gain high education and end up with a much lower-paying job compared to the rest of the population. Therefore, the welfare method practiced by Denmark is not a foolproof solution to reduce social disparity in the areas of income, mental health and happiness.
Race and IQ - The IQ data is out - in Danish television - YouTube.flv
Money is Not All That Matters
High taxes in Denmark seems to create a widening in the people who feel happy/contented and those who feel miserable. Perhaps, it is true that financial security from having money does not necessarily lead to happiness(or emotional well-being) but mainly support a sense of financial security and contentment.
If Denmark doesn't get its act together, it could decline very soon due to rising rates of cancer, alcohol deaths and debt. Denmark has a very similar population size compared to Singapore, yet Singapore doesn't have the kind of health and debt problems that the Danes face. Perhaps the tropical weather in Singapore made most of the difference.
What Kind of Happiness in Denmark?
Positive Psychology groups Happiness into 4 major types: Hedonic(pleasure), Chaironic(spiritual), Eudamonic(purpose, greater good) and Prudential(flow in life)Happiness. It seems that the Happiness found in Denmark comes mainly from the Hedonic type that comes from feeling safe, and eating and drinking in the company of others, something the Danish refer to as "hygge". I don't think their cold gloomy weather would contribute much to prudential happiness but can serve to restrict it.
But Denmark does have some amount of good artistic expression seen in their modern architecture and music. Even though Danish society can serve to induce depression, cancer and suicide like all other nations in the world, I think there can still be some exceptional Danes that could thrive even in Danish society by overcoming the restriction and feel truly Happy by achieving liberation and freedom.
The Art of Danish Hygge
Happiness can be created responsibly as well as through apathy and indifference. I think if the Danes start to become more responsible to their health and seriously restrict the consumption of grilled red meat and alcohol, their rates for cancer, anti-depressant usage, suicide and alcohol death would greatly decrease.
Every country in the world has its own good and bad aspects. Denmark's ranking to be the happiest nation in the world might seem to be an exaggeration and over-generalization.
Update: Someone just posted a debunk video on YouTube a few days ago about Oprah and Denmark. It contains lots of video footage from Denmark TV.
Debunking Oprah's claims about Denmark