What Do Danish People Look Like?

The Danish population is among the most genetically homogenous in the world. [1] Because of this, Danes share specific physical features with other Scandinavian populations. Most people may be familiar with such typically Scandinavian traits.

The majority of Danes are fair-skinned, and a relatively high proportion are thought to have blonde hair and blue eyes. Danes are also among the tallest populations in the world today. Of course, not all Danes share all these traits.

This article describes the features that Scandinavian people are known for all over the world. It also explains the history of migrations that gave rise to the Danish population over thousands of years.

Also see Wondering How to Become a Danish Citizen? to learn more.

Physical Characteristics of Danish People

When most people think of Danes or other Scandinavians, they imagine them to be:

  • Tall
  • Blonde
  • Blue-eyed
  • Light-skinned

Many online accounts hint at more detailed perceptions of the Scandinavian type. [2] According to these, Scandinavians are also supposed to have the following features:

  • Straight noses
  • Straight hair
  • Thin lips
  • High cheekbones

The following sections address each of these traits in greater detail.

Most Danes Have Fair Skin

Ethnic Danes make up 86.3% of the Danish population. [3] Of the remaining population, significant numbers are Swedes, Norwegians, Icelanders, and Faroese. Thus, most Danes are of Nordic genetic origin. 

Because they lived in the polar regions for thousands of years, the bodies of successive generations of Nordic ancestors produced less melanin.

By lowering melanin, their skins could absorb more of the limited available light. 

Better sunlight absorption, in turn, allowed their bodies to make the vitamin D necessary for breaking down crucial nutrients, such as calcium and phosphorous, giving them an evolutionary advantage. [4] 

On the other hand, indigenous populations from areas closer to the equator needed more melanin to protect against solar radiation, excessive amounts of which could cause skin damage.  

Since melanin is a dark pigment, a higher amount of melanin in the skin makes it darker, and the reverse is also true.

This is why Nordic people have among the lowest levels of melanin of any people in the world today. It also explains why they have among the fairest skins of any person. [5] 

The fairness of Nordic people allows them to produce more vitamin D from limited sunlight. But it also makes their skin more prone to damage from ultraviolet solar radiation.

Relatively High Blonde Population

Natural blonde hair is relatively rare in the broader global human population. However, it is more common among northern European people and most common among Nordic populations. [6]

As a consequence, Denmark has one of the largest populations of blondes in any nation. 

By some accounts, over 50% of Danes have blonde hair. Specifically, regions around the Baltic Sea are said to have some of the highest rates of blonde hair of any population in the world.

Besides a relatively high incidence of blonde hair, DNA studies have also found Scandinavian people’s hair to be, on average, thinner than Native American and East Asian hair. [7]

Information on whether Danes have straighter hair is harder to find. However, this is a common perception.

There are also many other impressions about Scandinavian hair floating online that may apply to Danes in some measure. As per these descriptions, Danes have:

  • Some of the highest rates of body hair in the world
  • Higher rates of red hair than in most nations of the world 

Relatively High Rates of Blue Eyes

With a population consisting of between 40-60% blue-eyed people, the percentage of the Danish population with blue eyes is among the highest in the world. [8]

However, this also means that many Danes do not have blue eyes, as 40-60% also have other eye colors. 

Danish People Are Among the Tallest in the World

A comprehensive study analyzing the heights of a million participants using publicly available population studies from 200 countries has found that Danes are some of the tallest people in the world. [9]

Only Dutch, Belgian, Estonian, and Latvian men have a greater mean height than Danish men. 

The same report also established that Danish women had the 7th highest mean height of all the nationalities on the list. [10] 

The study also highlighted that although the average height of a population is strongly influenced by genetic factors, the mean heights of populations can vary dramatically over short periods.  

Often, as countries get richer, non-genetic environmental factors, such as improved maternal health services, better childhood health and nutrition, and the elimination of adverse early-life health outcomes, push up the mean height of a population. 

These non-genetic influences help explain why wealthier nations are usually taller than poorer nations.

Scandinavian countries like Denmark have benefited significantly from such non-genetic factors over the past century. 

While Danes are significantly taller than many others today, this hasn’t always been the case. They have their improved health and the increased wealth that drove them to thank for this development.

Characteristic Danish Noses, Lips, and Cheekbones

Physical features like noses, lips, and cheekbones are much harder to establish evidence for. 

Like many people living in similar dry and frigid environments, it is likely that Danes also have narrower noses.

Narrower nasal passages cause air to heat as it travels into the body, allowing bodies to retain warmth in cold climates. [10]

Similarly, thin lips leave less sensitive skin exposed to icy wind. And high cheekbones, in being less prominent, offer advantages in cold conditions.

The Genetic History of the Danish Population 

The main reason Danes share many physical traits both within their population and with their immediate neighbors is the relatively high ethnic homogeneity of the people. 

Most Danes today derive from a single agricultural culture that goes back more than 4,000 years.

Historically the region has had much less immigration than most other parts of the world, including the more southern areas of Europe.

These trends have seen some change in recent years. Today, over half a million immigrants are Danish citizens. [12] At least some of these people will not look Scandinavian. 

Similarly, Danish ethnic minorities like the Greenlandic Inuit and Faroese people may not always look like the Scandinavians described above. However, they are relatively small populations.

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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