Behind Denmark’s Happiness


Gaby Loredo-Period 6

Besides the temperatures dropping between zero and minus four degrees that encouraged the Danish tradition of “hygee”; a tradition that reunites the community’s contentment needed for a happy country, what else makes Denmark so happy?[1]

Let’s start by defining happiness.  According to the Webster definition, happiness is “a state of well-being and contentment or a pleasurable or satisfying experience”. [2] Happiness cannot be defined without a synonym for happiness nor can it be interpreted to satisfy everyone. Therefore, happiness becomes questionable to relativity and whether or not it has a definition that includes everyone’s idea of happiness. Even then, it cannot be defined properly if humans do not understand what makes one happy, or if they are happy.

The best system that Aristotle concluded to best define something is by determining its one function that makes that something unique from everything else in society. [3] Moreover, he goes on to explain what is the best way to lead our life and give it meaning.[4] He then concludes this by examining the ultimate goal or the best end result to best understand something.[4]  By understanding and identifying the function of something is when one finally understands what that something is.[4] For example, the purpose of a phone is to make call, it is by understanding the phone’s best function that we can define what a phone is. Therefore, what is the function of happiness? Happiness makes man the best man by providing pleasure and a life well lived. [3]

The next question is, what is happiness to humans because pleasure and a life well lived can be done by animals? For humans to possess happiness, one needs to bring into existence a life that gives means for us to use and to grow or cause to grow and become more mature, advanced, or elaborated our reason, and that is in accordance with rational principles. [3] Unlike animals that can experience pleasure or amusement, humans are unique in the way that they experience the activity of happiness that is profound and enduring rather than the state of pleasure itself. [5]

So what can determine Denmark’s happiness? Since the state is the one that is happy and the state is made up of the people, then it becomes obvious that the people are the ones that make Denmark the happiest country in the world.  Therefore, the happiness of the Danish people becomes the main importance of a true happy state. It was concluded by Aristotle that our good or bad arbitrary forces affecting human affairs become a significant role in determining our happiness.[6] Forces such as our material state of welfare, our place in the collection of people living together in a community, and even our appearance.[6] Moreover, Aristotle states that if we stay in accordance to our essential nature, which is by living a life of contemplation, then the end results are bound to show the best results to become happy.[4] Happiness becomes more played by habits and virtues than of luck.[6] One who is able to control their habits to receive the best end results and can use their virtues to make them the best at being themselves can overcome the forces that affect human affairs.

As stated before, once the people of the state are able to create their true happy society, then they can overcome unfortunate events that are not always controlled by humanity. This has been proven in today’s society when a bank crisis was suffered in both Iceland and Ireland that strikingly affected their economies but didn’t greatly affect their happiness, according to a CNN report. [7] Both of these countries possess an immense support of nationality and loyalty that made their country strong enough to not let a situation so devastating affects their true happiness. [7] Therefore, as many people in today’s media argue that money does bring happiness, there are factors that can contradict that statement since the abundance of money is not always the most important factor towards a good society. Moreover, the fact that Denmark is not the wealthiest country but somehow it is still the happiest come to prove that money, wealth, or power cannot satisfy humanity enough to be contempt with themselves and be the best at being themselves. [7]

After taking note that it is not always the material aspects that many use to measure the happiness in society today like: GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth and a lack of corruption in leadership, it has been made in reports that the three factors that make a country happy are: a sense of social support, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity.[8] It comes down to the humility and the true virtues that make the best out of every person in that state or community that make it the happiest country. In Denmark, the happiness of its people is measured by their welfare rather than the socioeconomic factors like education, health, poverty, income, and a constructive government. [7]

Denmark strives to get the best end goal for its people through the social support given to each individual in every way possible. Denmark starts by supporting those who help produce more people for their population to grow with their habits and virtues. The Danish families can bring life to the world without the worry of maintaining a job due to the total of fifty-two weeks of parental leave.[8] Since the mothers are the ones with the most care for the children, they receive eighteen weeks while the fathers receive their own two weeks at up to one-hundred percent salary. [8]The rest of time’s use is decided by the family to decide wisely. [8]

Moreover, the Danish continues to show support as these children continue to grow in happiness with free or low- cost child care. [8] This shows that the Danish respect the idea that virtues are created when a human reaches the point of best contemplation. The human receives best contemplation, not by fortune but by the habits and virtues that built up the human. Therefore, by allowing for children to encounter different care than of their parents, especially their mother, makes them immune to the differences in the lives of many. This immunity constructs help for their understanding of the common good of their state once they reach their level of best contemplation to live a good life. As a result from this economic childcare, mothers are able to continue their life of contemplation with their careers, as to not limit themselves or their abilities after having a child. [8] Denmark creates a lively culture of generosity that benefits both their government (by giving the opportunity for more workers to come back to their economy) and to the families (by not limiting them to more possibilities after producing children). [8]

According to Huffington Post, “Danes don’t prioritize social security and safety simply so they can receive benefits; there’s a real sense of collective responsibility and belonging. And this civic duty — combined with the economic security and work-life balance to support it — results in a high rate of volunteerism”. [8] The Danish people are ahead of everyone else in the world because they understand the big picture; in order for them to be happy they have to make others happy because that benefits both parties in the end. Unlike America, they understand that they are not competing against each other; they acknowledge that sharing their abilities to help one another is what makes their economy healthy and strong to overcome challenges and hardships that seem highly destructive to the economy’s good qualities.

So why it is that Denmark is the happiest country in the world? Denmark is the beau ideal of the “social democratic” approach to carry out domestic policies simply to show that they care. [6]While Denmark may not seem perfect in wealth or power, it is a model of true humility that supports the growth of good virtues in order for humans to be in the best accordance with their natural essence, which is the end result of the best contemplative life: happiness. [4]


[1] Hetter, Katia. “Where Are the World’s Happiest Countries?” CNN. March 21, 2016. Accessed May 03, 2016. doi:CNN.

[2] Merriam-Webster. Accessed May 01, 2016.

[3] Aristotle, “Book 1: Chapter 9.”  In The Nicomachean Ethics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

[4] Aristotle, “Book 1: Chapter 7.”  In The Nicomachean Ethics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

[5] Aristotle, “Book 2: Chapter 6.”  In The Nicomachean Ethics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

[3] Aristotle, “Book 2: Chapter 5.”  In The Nicomachean Ethics.  Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

[6] Burton, Neel. “Aristotle on Happiness.” Psychology Today. January 28, 2013. Accessed May 04, 2016.

[7] Radcliff, Benjamin. “Why Is Denmark the Happiest Country in the World?” Psychology Today. November 8, 2015. Accessed May 02, 2016.

[8] Melnick, Meredith. “Denmark Is Considered The Happiest Country. You’ll Never Guess Why.” The Huffington Post. November 06, 2013. Accessed May 4, 2016.

Photo:  Nix, Jim. Copenhagen, Denmark. Denmark. Accessed May 5, 2016.

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