The Scandinavian dream: 3 reasons why Scandinavian countries rank top for happiness


For many years now, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland have consistently ranked among the world’s ten happiest countries. This is according to the World Happiness Report which was first published back in 2012. At least three or four of these countries regularly feature in the index’s top five, while Finland has taken the number one spot for six years running.

The results are there for all to see, but what is it about Scandinavia that breeds this level of happiness and makes it such a great place to live? Here are three of the main reasons: 

1. Plenty of job opportunities

There is significant long-term employment growth across Scandinavia thanks to policies such as unemployment programmes for the unskilled and heavily subsidised childcare. 

These policies ensure that most people can find work no matter their circumstances. And, combined with progressive taxation and comprehensive social policies to help to bridge the wealth gap in Nordic countries, the average Scandinavian can live very comfortably, contributing to their happiness.

Each nation also has a wide variety of industries for the workforce to choose from, ranging from core sectors like tourism and telecommunications, to more unique industries. These include SAP in Denmark, which is “the Scandinavian nation with the largest pool of SAP jobs, offering plenty of openings in the agriculture, manufacturing and energy industries”, life science in Sweden, and aquaculture in Norway.

2. Strong social welfare systems

Scandinavian countries are renowned for their robust social welfare systems. Universal healthcare, free education, and comprehensive social safety nets provide citizens with a sense of security and wellbeing. This ensures that they are not burdened by medical bills, student loan debt, or the fear of financial ruin due to unforeseen circumstances, reducing stress and anxiety.

For instance, Denmark is known for its “flexicurity” model, which offers generous unemployment benefits to workers who lose their jobs, all while maintaining a flexible labour market that encourages job mobility. Meanwhile, Sweden offers extensive parental leave policies, including a dedicated “daddy quota” that encourages fathers to take time off work to care for their children.

3. A great work-life balance

How we spend our free time and how much we get significantly contributes to our happiness, and Scandinavians have more than most. They have short work weeks and long paid holidays, as well as the generous parental leave policies touched upon already, all of which contributes to reduced stress and a greater sense of contentment.

Take Norway and Denmark, for instance. The countries have average working weeks of just 34.1 and 34.6 hours respectively, compared to 36.2 hours in France and Germany, 36.4 hours in the UK and 36.5 hours in Spain. While this may not seem like a lot at first glance, this adds up over the months and years.

Other factors that contribute to the happiness of Scandinavian countries include strong gender equality, the prioritisation of sustainability, and an emphasis on education.

In essence, the happiness of Scandinavia is a result of a well-rounded blend of economic, social, and lifestyle factors that create a truly exceptional quality of life for its residents.


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