• Denmark's news in English
 
jobs_header_v3

Danish happiness is all in the genes: study

Justin Cremer · 18 Jul 2014, 11:52

Published: 18 Jul 2014 11:52 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
If you know anything at all about Denmark, you probably know that it consistently tops international rankings as the happiest nation in the world. 
 
The theories for why that is are almost as numerous as the rankings themselves. From the security blanket of the welfare state, to the high wealth and standard of living, to the expats’ favourite theory that the Danes just set lower expectations in life, everyone seems to have an explanation for the vaunted Danish happiness. 
 
Enter a new theory: it’s all in the genes. 
 
Researchers at the University of Warwick have concluded that Danish DNA could be the key to happiness. And not only for people who live in Denmark. 
 
“If you have Danish DNA, regardless of where you live, you are likely to report high levels of happiness,” lead researcher Eugenio Proto told The Local. 
 
Proto and his colleague Andrew Oswald used data on 131 countries from various international surveys on national happiness and compared it with data on genetic distance. What they found is that the more ‘Danish’ people are, the happier they are as well.
 
“Denmark tends to always top these happiness studies and that creates a bit of a puzzle,” Proto told The Local. “The usual indicators - wealth, the welfare state, health, pride, and so on - couldn’t explain everything. So we did something very simple. We decided to see how much the genetic difference from Denmark could explain happiness. What we found is that the farther you are from the Danish genetic make-up, the less happy you are.”
 
Proto cautioned however that it is hard to separate genetic factors from cultural ones.  
 
“Cultural and genetic traits are transmitted in the exact same way,” he said. “Your parents give you their DNA, but they also give you cultural traits. It’s difficult to disentangle those things, but we did our best. Even after accounting for the cultural indicators, we still found that genetics played a big role.”
 
Proto explained that there are variations in a specific gene that influence the reuptake of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that affects human mood. 
 
“Although this is still debated, the long variation of this gene seems to be associated with better levels of happiness and moods,” he said. “To our surprise, we found that countries like Denmark and the Netherlands - which both do well in happiness studies – have a high level of frequency of the long variation.”
 
Interestingly, Proto and Oswald’s study found that even those who have never lived in Denmark are still affected by the Danish happiness gene. 
 
“We studied the ethnic origin of people born in the United States and found that Danish descendants in the US still report a high level of happiness, even if they were born and raised in the US. This is a strong sign of the inheritability of happiness.”
 
Proto and Oswald’s paper can be read below. 

Related links:

For more news from Denmark, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Justin Cremer (justin.cremer@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit


Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Denmark has the happiest young workers in the world
Work-life balance was considered a "top-driver" of employee happiness. Photo: Tuala Hjarnø/Copenhagen Media Center

At least according to a new ‘Global Workforce Happiness Index'.

Denmark to pull fighter jets out of Syria and Iraq
Former Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen sits in one of the fighter jets in Turkey earlier this year. Photo: Heine Pedersen/Scanpix

UPDATED: Denmark will take its four F-16 fighter jets out of the battle against the terror group Isis.

Ten tips to make moving house less stressful
Moving's hard, don't let it get the best of you. Photo: Iris

Relocation expert Melanie Haynes on how to get through one of the most stressful life events of all: moving to a new home.

Danish prosecutors to take on Uber
An Uber spokesperson told The Local that the app would continue to operate in Denmark. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters/Scanpix

Following a High Court decision against an Uber driver, Denmark's top prosecuting body is now going directly after the ridesharing company.

EU on track to meet 2020 target for renewable energy
Wind turbines in the Greater Copenhagen area. Photo: Kasper Palsnov/Scanpix

Goals for the use of renewable sources and cuts in consumption are both "well within reach".

Maersk Line to buy German container shipping company
Shipping containers belonging to Hamburg Sud and Maersk companies are seen stacked at La Guaira port in Venezuela. Photo: Marco Bello/Scanpix

The container shipping unit of Danish conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk said on Thursday it had agreed to buy German peer Hamburg Sud, as the industry consolidates amid a downturn.

Video
Danish People's Party signals support for leaving EU
DF's Peter Skaarup and Søren Espersen met with Nigel Farage in Copenhagen on Wednesday. Photo: Ólafur Steinar Gestsson/Scanpix

Top party brass met with Nigel Farage, who said it is only "a question of time" before Denmark follows the UK's lead.

Anti-whaling activist fined for animal cruelty in Faroes
A photo released by Sea Shepherd shows activists Celine Le Diouron, Marion Selighini and Captain Jessie Treverton. Photo: Sea Shepherd

Sea Shepherd said it will use the ruling to show that "a legal precedent has been set".

Danish court deports Slovakian woman for begging
The woman had been convicted of begging several times before. Photo: Colourbox

A Slovakian woman will be kicked out of Denmark in the country's first ruling of its kind.

The Local List
Ten tips for surviving a Danish Christmas party
'Tis the season for julefrokoster! Photo: Colourbox

Headed to a julefrokost this weekend? Here's how to get through the night in one piece.

Sponsored Article
'Learning to trade gave me the life I wanted'
Here is Denmark's new coalition government
Politics
Here is Denmark's new coalition government
Sponsored Article
Marianne Vikkula: the unlikely Nordic startup star
Danish editor jailed in nation's 'largest ever media scandal
Culture
Danish editor jailed in nation's 'largest ever media scandal'
Nine (cynical) reasons I left London for Copenhagen
Lifestyle
Nine (cynical) reasons I left London for Copenhagen
Sponsored Article
Terje Håkonsen: 'I try to make everything count'
Here's what Denmark's new budget means for foreigners
National
Here's what Denmark's new budget means for foreigners
Sponsored Article
Katrin Ottarsdóttir: 'Loneliness gives me strength'
Danish PM invites support parties into government
Politics
Danish PM invites support parties into government
Denmark now hopeful that Europol deal can be reached
International
Denmark now hopeful that Europol deal can be reached
Denmark extends border controls into 2017
National
Denmark extends border controls into 2017
Sponsored Article
Mette Helbæk: ‘We have a basic human need to connect'
Lego drops Daily Mail over accusations of 'hatred'
Business & Money
Lego drops Daily Mail over accusations of 'hatred'
Sponsored Article
Michael Björklund: 'Being a chef is crazy work'
International
Expats react to Trump: 'We have a very damaged society in the US'
Denmark approves medical cannabis trial
Health
Denmark approves medical cannabis trial
Three of four Danes: Trump would be ‘terrible' president
International
Three of four Danes: Trump would be ‘terrible' president
Election threats force Danish PM to delay grand vision
Politics
Election threats force Danish PM to delay grand vision
Denmark had another year of record low crime
National
Denmark had another year of record low crime
Denmark to get new Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Culture
Denmark to get new Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Danish populists hammered by EU expense scandal
Politics
Danish populists hammered by EU expense scandal
Danish experts warn of 'hygge-junkie' health risk
Health
Danish experts warn of 'hygge-junkie' health risk
Danish tabloid pulls 'racist' migrant sex kidnap post
Danish tabloid pulls 'racist' migrant sex kidnap post
Danish security agency files charges against former boss
National
Danish security agency files charges against former director
Danish nationalist charged with racism for 'refugee spray'
Society
Danish nationalist charged with racism for 'refugee spray'
Queen Margrethe: Denmark 'not a multicultural country'
Society
Queen Margrethe: Denmark 'not a multicultural country'
Danish experts: Grunting doesn't help you poop
Health
Danish experts: Grunting doesn't help you poop
Danish F-16s part of attack that allegedly hit Syrian forces
International
Danish F-16s part of attack that allegedly hit Syrian forces
Travel
Copenhagen declared world's most livable city - again!
2,205
jobs available