After being knocked off their perch last year, Danes have reclaimed the tittle of ‘world’s happiest people’ in the World Happiness Report released on Wednesday.
The World Happiness Report 2016 Update was released on Wednesday and Denmark took the top spot amongst 156 countries that were ranked by their happiness levels.
The previous edition of the report had seen Denmark slip down to number three behind Switzerland and Iceland.
In the 2016 update, the countries in the top ten were the same as in last year’s edition but the ordering changed slightly. Following Denmark were Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland. Fellow Nordic country Sweden, meanwhile, fell two spots and barely remained in the top ten.
“The consistency at the top reflects mainly that life evaluations are based on life circumstances that usually evolve slowly, and that are all at high levels in the top countries,” John Helliwell, a professor at the University of British Columbia and one of the editors of the report, said.
The World Happiness Report 2016 Update looked at data recording how highly people evaluate their lives on a scale running from 0 to 10. The rankings, which are based on surveys in 156 countries covering the three years 2013-2015, revealed an average score of 5.1, while Denmark’s average was 7.52.
Danes have a well-established international reputation as the ‘happiest people in the world’, having landed at or near the top of various happiness surveys for years. While the World Happiness Report 2016 Update sees them back at number one, other recent studies have suggested that other countries have caught up on the much-hyped Danish happiness.
In July 2015, a study from the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute put Denmark below Finland, the Netherlands and Norway.
A few months before that, the UN’s World Happiness Report placed Denmark in third place, while an international WIN/Gallup poll in January 2015 put Denmark behind Finland as the happiest country in Europe, and a Gallup and Healthways Global poll from September 2014 placed Denmark behind Panama and Costa Rica when it comes to overall well-being.
In March 2015, however, Denmark topped a Eurostat study on life satisfaction released in conjunction with the International Day of Happiness while just last month Aalborg was declared the happiest city in Europe.
Theories abound for why Danes consistently rank so high in these types of studies. Some say it’s down to having more realistic expectations while others cynically point to the nation’s high use of antidepressants, with upwards of 12 percent of the population on some sort of antidepressant medication.
Another theory is that it is genetic. Eugenio Proto, a researcher at the University of Warwick, told The Local in 2014 that his analysis of data on 131 countries from various international surveys on happiness found that the more ‘Danish’ people are, the happier they are as well.
“If you have Danish DNA, regardless of where you live, you are likely to report high levels of happiness,” Proto said.
While it might not be possible to find a definitive answer for Denmark consistently topping these studies, and while plenty of people dismiss the results as nothing more than subjective pseudoscience, when one looks at this list of 27 reasons why Danes are the happiest people in the world it’s hard to argue that there isn’t plenty to things to be happy about in Denmark – no matter what position it takes in the next list.