Happiness is an old Dane

The elderly in Denmark are happier than both their European counterparts and their younger countrymen. The Local spoke to the head of the Happiness Research Institute to find out why.

Happiness is an old Dane
Skål to being Danish! Photo: Colourbox
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. 

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World’s second-happiest country Denmark to get museum about happiness

Denmark, famed for its regular spot near the top of the annual World Happiness Report, is to open a museum about feeling good.

World’s second-happiest country Denmark to get museum about happiness
File photo: Mads Nissen/Ritzau Scanpix

Why is it that the Nordic countries often top the World Happiness Reports? How has the perception of the good life evolved over time? And can you actually measure happiness? 

Visitors can look for the answers to these questions when the world’s first happiness museum opens in Denmark, which took second place behind Finland in the most recent edition of the report.

Thinktank Happiness Research Institute (Institut for Lykkeforskning) is behind the Happiness Museum, which is scheduled to open on Copenhagen's Admiralgade in May. Entry will cost 95 kroner for adults and 65 kroner for children and seniors.

The museum is led by Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute and author of a string of volumes on Danish happiness culture including the bestselling The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living. The museum is fully financed by Happiness Research Institute.

“The United Nations has put happiness on the agenda with the World Happiness Report, where Denmark consistently ranks in the top of the happiest countries,” Wiking said in written comments provided to The Local.


“At the Happiness Research Institute we receive many requests for visits – as people imagine the office to be a magical place full of puppies and ice-cream. Sadly, we sit in front of computers and look at data and evidence – but we thought 'let’s create a museum where we can bring the science of happiness to life',” he added.

In the small museum, visitors will gain insight in the history of happiness, the politics of happiness, the anatomy of smiles and why the Nordic countries are considered happiness superpowers. 

The museum is interactive and visitors will take part in small exercises involving light and chocolate, as well as thought experiments, including: Would you take the red pill or the blue pill in the Matrix, being put in a machine that gives you the illusion of living your perfect life – or would you prefer to live in the real world?

Exhibits also include artefacts of happiness donated by people from around the world which remind them of their happiest moments.

“We might be Danish and British – but we are first and foremost people,” Wiking said.

“I hope visitors will see how alike we are when it comes to happiness – that our guests exit the museum wiser, happier and a little more motivated to make the world a better place,” he added.