Trust

With Denmark's high degree of social solidarity, reflected in its strong social contract and support for working families, Danes, along with citizens of other Nordic countries (Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland), are among the most likely people on Earth to trust their fellow citizens. The sense that “most people can be trusted” enormously increases personal feelings of security.

The focus on equality in Nordic countries discourages status and consumer competition and encourages concern for community well-being. As a Republican state senator once told John, she discovered during a trip to Norway the feeling that “everybody isn't trying to get filthy rich.” The Nordic “we're all in this together” ethic leads to a high valuation of honesty and sharing. Nordic countries understand the importance of both trust and generosity in improving levels of happiness.

Research shows the Nordics have good reason for their high levels of trust. Wallets filled with money left deliberately on streets in Nordic countries are more likely to be returned intact than anywhere else in the world, and residents know this. In surveys, they are more likely to say they expect their wallets and money to be returned than people elsewhere, about twice as likely as Americans, for example.20

But if trust and generosity are important contributors to happiness, unemployment most assuredly is not. Happiness researchers find that the loss of a job hurts far more than the drop in income alone. Productive work, with reasonable work hours, contributes greatly to self-esteem. That esteem takes a big hit when a job is lost. Not even the Danes can prevent job losses, but they view unemployment as an economic and social, rather than personal, failing. The social support and educational opportunities the Danes provide to their unemployed help to strengthen laid-off workers' sense of self-worth and minimize the blow to personal well-being.

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