Last month, Denmark was crowned the happiest country in the world.
“The top countries generally rank higher in all six of the key factors identified in the World Happiness Report,” wrote University of British Columbia economics professor John Helliwell, one of the report's contributing authors.
The six factors for a happy nation include: A large GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy at birth, a lack of corruption in leadership, a sense of social support for individuals, freedom to make life choices and a culture of generosity.
“Together, these six factors explain three quarters of differences in life evaluations across hundreds of countries and over the years.”
But why Denmark over any of the other wealthy, democratic countries with small, educated populations? Below are a few things Danes (citizens of Denmark)do well that any of us can lobby for:
Denmark supports parents
Danish children don't have to worry, dad and mum can take 52 weeks leave for them and still get paid 100%
''While American women only manage to get an average maternal leave of 10.3 weeks, Danish families receive a total of 52 weeks of parental leave. Mothers are able to take 18 weeks and fathers receive their own dedicated 2 weeks at up to 100 percent salary. The rest of the paid time off is up to the family to use as they see fit''
Health care is a civil right -- and a source of social support
Danish citizens expect and receive health care as a basic right. But what's more, they know how to effectively use their health systems. Danish people are in touch with their primary care physician an average of nearly seven times per year, according to a 2012 survey of family medicine in the country. And that means they have a single advocate who helps them navigate more complicated care.
Gender equality is prioritized
Denmark regularly ranks among the top 10 countries in a World Economic Forum's yearly report that measures gender equality. While no country in the world has yet achieved gender parity, Denmark and other Nordic countries are coming close. That is in no small part because of the strong presence of women in leadership positions. Reported the World Economic Forum
Biking is the norm
In Denmark's most populated and largest city, Copenhagen, bikes account for 50 percent of its residents' trips to school or work. Half. Half of commuting happens on a bike in Copenhagen and that doesn't just improve fitness levels and reduce carbon emissions, it also contributes to the wealth of the city, reported Forbes:
Researchers found that for every kilometer traveled by bike instead of by car, taxpayers saved 7.8 cents (DKK 0.45) in avoided air pollution, accidents, congestion, noise and wear and tear on infrastructure. Cyclists in Copenhagen cover an estimated 1.2 million kilometers each day –- saving the city a little over $34 million each year.
What's more, just 30 minutes of daily biking adds an average of one to two years to the life expectancy of Copenhagen's cyclists.
Danish culture puts a positive spin on its harsh environment
Here's how Danish people turn lemons into spiced mulled wine: Ever heard of the concept of hygge? While some would define it as cultivated coziness, hygge is often considered the major weapon in combatting the dreary darkness that befalls the Nordic country over the winter. In a place where the sun shines fewer than seven hours during the height of the winter solstice -- a level of darkness that can (and does) stir depression and sad feelings -- the concept of a cozy scene, full of love and indulgence, can help to mitigate some of the season's worst psychological effects.
After all, both strong social connections and many of the indulgent foods associated with hygge -- such as chocolate, coffee and wine -- are mood boosters.
Danes feel a responsibility to one another
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. According to a government exploration of Danish "responsibility":
Denmark is a society where citizens participate and contribute to making society work. More than 40 percent of all Danes do voluntary work in cultural and sports associations, NGOs, social organisations, political organisations, etc. There is a wealth of associations: in 2006, there were 101,000 Danish organisations -- worth noting in a population of just 5.5 million. The economic value of this unpaid work is DKK 35.3 billion. Combined with the value growth from the non-profit sector, public subsidies and membership fees, the total economic impact of the sector represents 9.6 percent of the Danish GDP.
But that sense of stewardship isn't just extra-governmental: Danes also take pride in their involvement with the democratic process. During the last election in September 2011, for example, 87.7 percent of the country voted. It's not surprising, given these statistics, that the University of Zurich and the Social Science Research Center Berlin have given Denmark the very highest rating for democracy among 30 established democracies.