While Oprah visited Copenhagen, Denmark’s capitol city, last fall in support of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics, she attempted to find out what makes the Danes so happy. She met up with a resident of Copenhagen, Nanna Norup, to discuss why the Danes are so categorically happy.
Oprah’s Web site reports Norup said their happiness is due to a number of factors. For starters, as a whole, the people are environmentally conscious and one-third of the population rides bikes around the city of Copenhagen. Norup says even in a country of 5.5 million people, homelessness, poverty and unemployment are “extremely rare.”
In probably one of the most shocking revelations for Americans, Norup says in the Oprah.com report that if a Dane loses his/her job, the Danish government continues to pay them up to 90 percent of their salary for four years. In addition, health care is free for everyone.
Also contributing to the happiness of Danes, paid maternity leave is considerably longer in Denmark, said Norup. Women typically get six to 12 months. That’s a lot of reasons for women to be happier in Denmark, when compared to the typical six weeks of paid maternity leave in the United States, with an additional 12 weeks of unpaid time.
In Denmark, citizens actually get paid to attend universities, according to the Oprah report, which is a far cry from the debt a typical U.S. citizen accumulates while attending college.
Norup also attributes Denmark’s status as the happiest nation in the world to the lack of pressure Danish women feel to get married. She is 44 and single and never grew up dreaming of bridal gowns and weddings. Compare that to the United States where weddings and brides are an estimated nearly $60 billion industry, according to The Wedding Report, wedding statistics and market research firm.
Denmark was classified as the happiest nation on earth when Adrian White, the analytic social psychologist developed the World Map of Happiness in 2006. White’s research included statistical data, plus the responses of 80,000 people worldwide to rate and rank the relative happiness of 178 countries. Four other European countries--Switzerland, Austria and Iceland--ranked in the top 10. The United States came in a 23. Zimbabwe and Burundi were at the bottom of the World Map of Happiness.
Oprah features the interview with Norup, as well as women from all over the world, on Thursday.