Friday, October 14, 2011

Are the Danes really the happiest nation in the world?

According to the most recent OECD How’s Life study of happiness in 40 different nations, the answer is yes, the Danes are number one. Not far behind them is my country, Canada, with Norway coming in third. The Finns and Swedes also scored high in the study. The U.S.A. scored lower, not surprising, I think, given their uncertain economic situation.

However, according to the How’s Life study, happiness is not only measured by economic success and affluence. Although many people find a great deal of meaning in life vis-à-vis their work—nonetheless, there are other factors that contribute to happiness. The study also looked at factors such as: access to education and healthcare, unpolluted green spaces, connections with family and friends, safe neighbourhoods, and political involvement.

Being a Lutheran pastor, I wonder about the factor of faith preference and involvement—especially in the Nordic nations, which are, by faith, majority Lutheran countries. Does Lutheranism, in this period of its history, have a significant contribution to make in the overall happiness of individuals and nations? If the Nordic peoples were asked about their faith in relationship with their overall happiness, I wonder what they would say, and what conclusions could be drawn. We have a friend and colleague who lives in Denmark, and yes, I would describe him as a happy Dane overall. However, he tells us that in his neck of the woods only a small minority of people attend Sunday Worship Services on a regular basis. Yet, they still do show up in large numbers for baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals, and, of course, for Christmas and Easter too—but that’s about it. So, if there are any Nordic readers out there who would like to answer my questions above concerning a relationship between faith and happiness I’d be most grateful. You can read about the How’s Life study, with various pertinent links here.

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