New Report Reveals Sadness in Scandinavia
Although the Scandinavian countries—Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Iceland— consistently rank among the happiest countries in the world, their rankings belie the true emotional state of their inhabitants. A new report by the Happiness Research Institute reveals that sadness afflicts a significant number of Scandinavians. Young Scandinavians are the most susceptible to sadness, stress, loneliness, and feeling under pressure to succeed.
Historically, the rest of the world has desired Scandinavia’s apparent happiness. When measuring happiness through both wealth and a sense of satisfaction in life, Scandinavian countries have bested all others in surveys. Finland took first place in the United Nations Happiness Report league table in 2018.
The Nordic Council of Ministers, an international organization of the Scandinavian countries, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Aland, asked the Happiness Research Institute to look into the lives of Scandinavians who did not fit the stereotype identified in the surveys. The Institute collected data over five years, from 2012 through 2016. Many Scandinavians admitted that they are either struggling or suffering when assessing their own lives, reports the Guardian.
The new assessment concluded that approximately twelve percent of the Scandinavian population is struggling. About fourteen percent of 18- to 23-year-olds fit into this category. However, sixteen percent of Scandinavians who are 90 or above are struggling, significantly more than the younger group. Stress, anxiety, and depression are the most prevalent causal factors among the younger generation, while physical health and loneliness are the main stressors for older Scandinavians.
A co-author of the report and a member of the Institute, Michael Birkjaer said that young people were reporting increasingly higher stress levels and loneliness. Young people are expected to excel in school. “In Denmark, the perfectionism culture is a huge topic,” Birkjaer said, referring to what he calls the “twelfth grade culture” of excelling in classes and exams, according to the Guardian. The world also appears to be a more difficult place in which to succeed, especially after the financial crisis, although Denmark has been recovering quite well.
Social media may also factor into the reduced happiness among the younger generation. Teenagers prone to looking at social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram may envy the lives of their peers.
The study found that mental health problems are the most significant barrier to the well-being of the younger generation. According to BBC, women are more likely to suffer from depression and men more likely to lack sufficient social contact.
The Institute also identified patterns for more specific demographics within the report. Ethnic minorities living in Nordic countries were significantly less happy, and religious people reported higher levels of happiness. There was little difference in happiness levels reported between those living in the countryside and in the city.