Cracks are showing in the glowing facade of Scandinavians.

Since 2014, Denmark has fallen seven places on the OECD Better Life Index of overall life satisfaction; plummeting oil prices have made Norwegians jumpy; and Sweden is coping with increased racial polarization. In Finland, the fall of Nokia has caused national hand-wringing and Iceland remains deeply indebted after its overly zealous investment in American financial products. 

Michael Booth, a journalist based in Copenhagen, Denmark, explains that while Scandinavia may be highly egalitarian, it makes comprises that other, supposedly less-happy nations, are likely unwilling to emulate:

"The tax rates alone would likely be a sufficient deterrent. Though I’m a freelance journalist, I essentially work until Thursday lunchtime for the state. And it’s not as if the money that is left in my pocket goes all that far: These are fearfully expensive countries in which to live."

To tell someone you're unhappy places the burden on them to fix your current state. As a result, ask a Scandinavian if they're happy, and they'll likely one-up you—"super!"—says Booth.

Booth also identifies a rigorous social code that explains why Scandinavians consistently rate themselves as happier than everyone else. In Denmark, for example, the high degree of social cohesion places more responsibility on friends and acquaintances.

To tell someone you're unhappy places the burden on them to fix your current state. As a result, ask a Scandinavian if they're happy, and they'll likely one-up you—"super!"—says Booth. Added to that, because Scandinavian societies are so egalitarian, social mobility tends to be rather low, and displaying ambition to achieve higher status is not well-accepted.

[W]hile Scandinavia may be highly egalitarian, it makes comprises that other, supposedly less-happy nations, are likely unwilling to emulate.

According to Booth, being content in Scandinavia is much easier if one sets their standards relatively low, without exerting a great deal of energy to achieving them.

Steven C. Hayes, happiness scholar and professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, explains that when we use policy to address happiness, the results are disastrous. Discussing Scandinavia, he points to the extremely high rates of disability that are a result of trying to achieve an overwhelming degree of happiness.

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Read more at the The Atlantic.

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