How Happy Are the Swedes?

Photo: Sofia Sabel/

By Peter Berlin

The Happiness Research Institute is an independent think tank in Copenhagen with a mission to explore why some societies are happier than others. The Institute’s reports inform decision makers about the causes and effects of human happiness, so as to form the basis for public policy debate and hopefully to improve the quality of life for citizens around the world.


Excerpt from the 2018 World Happiness Index. Source: United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.


According to the Institute’s website, people in the Nordic countries are generally happier than people in the rest of the world, but that is not to say that no-one in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden is struggling or even suffering. These unhappy attributes apply primarily to young people, and to women rather than men. The main causes are said to be loneliness, stress and feeling under pressure to succeed. Research suggests that on average 12.3% of the Nordic population consider themselves to be struggling or suffering. That figure rises to 13.5% among 18- to 23-year-olds.

Taking the populations as a whole, the Institute reports that the Danes are the happiest, followed by the Finns, the Icelanders, the Norwegians and, lastly, the Swedes. At the other extreme within Europe, 63 percent of Russians consider themselves as unhappy.

In case anyone suspects the Institute of Nordic bias, a similar happiness index is published annually by the United Nations. Here again, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland figure at the top, while Sweden drops down to 9th place behind Switzerland, The Netherlands, Canada, and New Zealand. The US is in 18th place and Russia in 59th. The bottom score position at No. 156 is held by Burundi.