To say Denmark’s not nearly as sunny and temperate as Rwanda, or even Italy, is an understatement. Yet in the Northern European country with shorter-than-average winter days and plenty of rain, policy makers and private citizens must be doing something right.
The Scandinavian nation was recently crowned the “happiest” country in the world, according to the World Happiness Report, a nearly 200-page document put together by globally renowned economists and sociologists.
And while this designation definitely raises the question of what Denmark’s got that the United States doesn’t (we only ranked 17th), it also offers us a unique opportunity to look at our own lives—what we can and can’t control, financial factors and our perceptions. And by doing this, psychologists who study happiness promise we’ll likely experience a higher level of bliss, without having to pack our bags for Copenhagen.
Here’s some insight on the rankings and the report, and some takeaways for our own lives in the States.
Inside the Rankings
What makes the average citizen in Sweden or Norway happier than her demographic counterpart in Togo or, well, here in the good old U.S. of A.?
While the notion of happiness is subjective, researchers believe it could be comparatively measured based on six factors: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on (such as a family member or friend), generosity (which has “a strong positive link with life evaluations,” according to researchers), perceived absence of corruption, and perceived freedom to make life choices (such as the freedom to vote or choose who to marry.)
What helped authors equally measure these factors worldwide were responses from at least 1,000 people per country who took the Gallup World Poll: The poll asks private citizens about their levels of happiness with their lives, ranking them on a 0 to 10 scale. Here’s what they discovered in the process.