- Confidence in government crashing
- Percentage living comfortably on present income declining
- Still among top 10 countries in positive experiences
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Denmark is famously known for having the highest life evaluations in the world. But while Danes' ratings of their lives are still high, those ratings have never recovered since declining sharply in 2009 -- and they've recently gotten worse. From 2006 to 2014, the percentage of Danes who rate their lives well enough to be considered thriving has dropped 16 percentage points.
Gallup classifies people as "thriving," "struggling," or "suffering," according to how they rate their current and future lives on a ladder scale with steps numbered from 0 to 10 based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. People are considered thriving if they rate their current lives a 7 or higher and their lives in five years an 8 or higher.
Denmark has led the world in thriving every year since 2006 with the single exception of 2012, when Iceland edged it out. Although its thriving percentage remains among the highest in the world, Denmark's decline has been dramatic. Of the 113 countries that Gallup studied each year between 2006 and 2013, only 10 had larger declines in percentage thriving than Denmark in that same time period. Six of the 10 were also other EU countries.
One of the single biggest contributors to life evaluation ratings is income. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, disposable income is in decline in Denmark and household debt is the highest for countries in the OECD. The percentage of people who feel they're living comfortably on their present household income dropped from 54% in 2007 to 46% in 2014. Additionally, the economy has been in recession three times since 2008, which can have major effects on individual life evaluations. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and Michael I. Norton recently found that "the life satisfaction of individuals is between two and eight times more sensitive to negative growth as compared to positive economic growth. People do not psychologically benefit from expansions nearly as much as they suffer from recessions."
As Danes become less optimistic about their own lives, they're also losing confidence in their national government. Two-thirds of Danes had confidence in their government in 2006, compared with 46% in 2014.
Denmark's drop in confidence is even more pronounced when compared with the rest of the world. Only nine countries out of the 103 that Gallup studied from 2006 to 2013 had larger drops than Denmark.
While the way Danes see their lives is getting worse, they're upbeat about the way they live their lives. Gallup quantifies how people live their lives through two additional indexes that measure people's positive and negative experiences. Denmark's Positive Experience Index ranks it No. 1 among EU countries and it ties for last on the Negative Experience Index. Arguably, Danes lived the best lives in Europe in 2013. Compared with the rest of the world, Denmark tied for sixth in the world in 2013 in terms of positive experiences and ranked low for negative emotions -- 110 out of 138 countries.
Danes still have a lot to be optimistic about. Despite overall declines in how Danes see their lives, their daily experiences are the best in Europe and among the best in the world. And, despite the steep declines in their life ratings, the percentage of Danes who are thriving is still so high that Denmark will most likely remain the No. 1 country in the world for 2014.
Results for Denmark in 2014 are based on landline and cellular telephone interviews with approximately 2,002 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in April-May and September-October 2014. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Other results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each country, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2013. For results based on country-level samples, the margin of error ranges from a low of ±2.1 to a high of ±5.3. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.
Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.