Why are Scandinavian women so happy, and how can you achieve the same level of happiness? Mother and writer Natália Šepitková shares her view from the other side.
Text: Natália Šepitková
Last year, the World Happiness Report 2022 named Denmark the second happiest country in the world. Of the 5.9 million population, 2.98 million are female – so that's a lot of happy Danish women.
What is the reason that Scandinavian women are happier than other European women? A higher income may play a role, but as they say, money can't buy happiness. The main essence of a happy and satisfied life is entirely different.
A safe place to live
In general, good economic conditions, a sense of security, a low level of corruption and a high level of freedom and social support influence satisfaction in a country. The happiness of Denmark is undoubtedly a consequence of the good economic situation of the population and a well-adjusted social system.
It's also about social trust - Danes trust the state and institutions, and they also trust each other. A life based on trust strengthens the feeling of security and well-being. In the World Happiness Report, social trust often appears as one of the main factors of happiness. Especially for the female population, it is a great relief to trust others.
The 2022 Best Countries for Women list is based on responses from more than 9,000 women surveyed who linked different countries to five specific attributes: concern for human rights, gender equality, income equality, progressiveness and security. Scandinavian countries make up the majority of this list of the top countries for women, and Denmark ranked 4th.
In the same boat
Women in Denmark are satisfied even with such a simple but essential thing - equality. The country promotes gender equality and offers an earnings-related childcare system and a parental leave policy that is among the most flexible in the European Union.
The country's well-developed work-life balance allows Danish women to pursue careers and have time for family and leisure activities. However, for a comfortable life for women, it is essential to know that they are determined to raise children and take care of the household. A fair division of tasks in the family gives them personal freedom to decide how much time they will devote to themselves and their development.
"It's also about social trust - Danes trust the state and institutions, and they also trust each other."
Evening classes, museum visits, round-the-world trips, bike rides, hikes, swimming, sewing, knitting, and gardening. This is the hectic schedule of the average happiest retired woman, and being active keeps them young and improves their well-being. This study claims that retired Danish women are the most content in Europe, with those aged 65-74 scoring 8.6 out of 10 on the happiness scale. On one side, it is about the perspective that comes with age. But, on the other side, there is something about the experience of 'living Danishly' that also helps.
They receive money from the municipality, which is enough to live on. They have enhanced social networks because they've had plenty of time to foster friendships and extracurricular interests throughout their careers. They are pensioners with time on their hands, thanks mainly to the welfare state, which subsidises daycare places for children from six months, and excuses grandparents from a second career as unpaid babysitters.
Steps to happiness
Although women from other European countries don't have the same influences that make Scandinavian women happier than others, the Danish lifestyle can undoubtedly inspire them. Danes love sports and motion activities. They spend plenty of time outside, and, of course, they cycle a lot. The secret of happiness is also connected with good relations. Many researchers confirm that happier people have quality friendships and organised family relationships around them.
And don't forget the hygge. This Danish phenomenon is not just a cliché, but it works. Hygge strives for everyday little pieces of happiness that make our lives more beautiful and content. Hygge is about pleasant moments, simple presence, and small pleasures like coffee, dessert or chocolate. It is also about comfort, gratitude, harmony, and truce. No Dane would be happy without hygge, I'm sure.