"Sweden has more blond beauties per capita, Italy and France have far better cuisine, and most of the free world can boast of better weather. But over the past 30 years, the citizens of Denmark have scored higher than any other Western country on measures of life satisfaction, and scientists think they know why.
In a paper appearing in the Dec. 23 issue of the medical journal BMJ, researchers review six likely and unlikely explanations, and conclude that the country’s secret is a culture of low expectations. “It’s a David and Goliath thing,” said the lead author, Kaare Christensen, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. “If you’re a big guy, you expect to be on the top all the time and you’re disappointed when things don’t go well. But when you’re down at the bottom like us, you hang on, you don’t expect much, and once in a while you win, and it’s that much better.”
The researchers arrived at their findings by a process of elimination and humor. Blonds may have more fun, they argue, but Sweden has a higher prevalence of them. As for climate, Danes “bask in a somewhat colder and cloudier version of the balmy English weather.” They also eat fatty foods and drink a lot, and genetically they are not significantly different from their gloomier Scandinavian neighbors. And in 1992 the Danes won the European Championship in soccer, creating “such a state of euphoria that the country has not been the same since.”
But on surveys, Danes continually report lower expectations for the year to come, compared with most other nations. And “year after year, they are pleasantly surprised to find that not everything is getting more rotten in the state of Denmark,” the paper concludes."