The Danish Effect: Beginning to Explain High Well-Being in Denmark

Abstract

Although income and happiness have been linked at both the individual and national levels of analysis, few studies have specifically examined the different relationships between these two variables in affluent nations. This study investigates various measures of well-being in both the United States and Denmark. Respondents in both countries reported high levels of well-being but Americans generally reported greater positive and negative affect while Danes reported higher levels of satisfaction and enjoyment. Interestingly, low income respondents in the United States reported higher negative affect and lower life satisfaction than their counterparts in Denmark. For positive affect, the major difference between the two countries was found among high income respondents. The key to understanding differences in the well-being of these two nations appears to lie in understanding the well-being of the poor. Suggestions for future directions in research are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    First measures for the Danish sample was: χ 2 (33, N = 1004) = 88.27, p < 0.001, CFI = 0.92, RMSEA = 0.04; and for the US sample: χ 2 (33, N = 1,001) = 99.56, p < 0.001, CFI = 0.96, RMSEA = 0.05. To account for the dichotomous scoring of these items, we also ran the factor analysis with polychoric correlations, and got the following goodness of fit measures for the Danish sample: χ 2 (28, N = 1,004) = 56.25, p < 0.001, CFI = 0.94, RMSEA = 0.04 and for the US sample: χ 2 (25, N = 1,001) = 45.19, p = 0.008, CFI = 0.99, RMSEA = 0.03. The degrees of freedom cannot be unambiguously determined for a model with polychoric correlations, and the chi-square values cannot be used to test differences between models.

  2. 2.

    The items were kept separate because the correlations between them were inconsistent with a one-factor model in both the American and the Danish sub-samples. This is because the product of the two highest correlations was higher than the lowest correlation in the correlation matrix, and such a matrix is not is compatible with the idea of a common factor (E. Røysamb, personal communication, 28. September 2008).

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Correspondence to Robert Biswas-Diener.

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Biswas-Diener, R., Vittersø, J. & Diener, E. The Danish Effect: Beginning to Explain High Well-Being in Denmark. Soc Indic Res 97, 229–246 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-009-9499-5

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Keywords

  • Life satisfaction
  • Positive affect
  • Happiness
  • Denmark
  • USA
  • Income