With Friday marking the International Day of Happiness, EU statistics agency has released fresh stats showing just how satisfied Europeans are with their lives.
It probably comes as little surprise that Denmark, which has consistently topped happiness lists for decades now, came out on top in the new survey.
The Eurostat study asked people across the EU to rate their life satisfaction on a scale of zero to ten, with zero indicating “not satisfied at all” and ten meaning “fully satisfied”.
Danes across all age groups gave an average answer of 8.0, which was good enough to put Denmark in a four-way tie for first place with Sweden, Finland and Switzerland.
Interestingly, while the study found that throughout the EU young people tend to be more satisfied with life than elderly respondents, that trend is reversed in Denmark.
Danes aged 65-74 are the most satisfied in all of Europe, with a score of 8.6. Danes 75 and over reported an average life satisfaction of 8.4, tying elderly Swiss for the top spot.
The Local spoke with the director of the Happiness Research Institute, who said that Denmark’s results “go against the common perception that we are happy when we are young and then it is all downhill from there”.
“Some people say that the 46th year of life is a global low point for happiness. One explanation for this could of course be that this is a time when we are pressured both from our career and by our children. Another explanation is that this might be the time of life when we must come to terms with the fact that we are just like everyone else – we’re not going to be big movie stars or football players and that might be hard to swallow for some,” Happiness Research Institute CEO Meik Wiking told The Local.
Wiking said that the Nordic welfare model can be credited for the fact that elderly Danes rate their life satisfaction so highly.
“What causes unhappiness for a lot of people, including the elderly, across the globe has been taken care of by the Danish welfare state. By that I mean the lack of access to healthcare, which as you age becomes even more important and also economic uncertainty. Those two factors explain a lot of unhappiness around the world,” Wiking told The Local.
Wiking, whose institute studies happiness trends around the world, said life satisfaction has a direct impact on life span.
“We know there is a link between happiness and health, so happier people have a lower mortality rate. That means that over time, those who are still alive will have a higher happiness average,” he said.
“It’s not that people become happier [as they age], it’s that the unhappy ones die,” he said.