Why Are Danish People So Depressed?

Depression is a constant feeling of sadness, worry, and a general loss of interest that can interfere with daily life. This mood disorder is prevalent in Denmark and several other Nordic nations, affecting how people interact with themselves and their environment.

Danish people are so depressed because of social comparison, lack of social contact, and the marginalization of ethnic minorities. While most records show that 92% of Danes are happy, these factors cause the smaller 8% to struggle and feel unhappy and unsatisfied.

The rest of this article will explain more about the prevalence of depression in Denmark and how Danish people manage the condition. It will also talk more about therapy options in Denmark.

Also, see Why Are Swedish People Depressed? to learn more.

Is Depression Common in Denmark?

Depression is a mood disorder affecting about 280 million people worldwide, according to reports from the World Health Organization (WHO). [1]

Some common symptoms of the mental health condition include gradual or dramatic loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, sleep disorders, physical fatigue, and lack of concentration.

The people living in Denmark, known as Danes, are generally considered happy people—a reputation supported by data obtained from many polls and surveys.

However, Denmark isn’t an isolated occurrence in the happiness department. Nordic countries, including Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway, have gained notoriety as the world’s happiest nations.

In fact, Denmark’s Happiness Research Institute has done some research and discovered that approximately 92% of Danish people are happy.

Unfortunately, the positive reputation of these so-called “happy” countries doesn’t eliminate the fact that depression is endemic in every region.

After all, state-sponsored reports have provided data that about 8% of the Danish population struggle with and suffers from depression. [2]

While this 8% may seem small on paper, it’s a massive number of people in the grand scheme.

5.857 million people were living in Denmark as of 2021, and 8% of this population means that at least 468,560 Danes currently suffer from depression.

Social Comparison

Many people who struggle with depression engage in social comparison, regardless of nationality, and Danish people are no different.

It’s hard to be the odd individual in a group, especially as a member of the world’s happiest society.

And seeing that the vast majority of the population is happy and thriving can aggravate depression symptoms.

These symptoms typically worsen with time and give way to even more unpleasant feelings.

Danish people, like everyone else, naturally consider ways to dispel these unpleasant feelings, which typically lead to worry and worse symptoms.

Ultimately, this situation becomes a vicious cycle of comparison, depression, worry, and even more depression.


Another common reason for the prevalence of depression among Danes is loneliness.

Loneliness is a strong, deep feeling of need for social interaction and fulfilling relationships accompanied by an inability to satisfy these desires.

It’s common in today’s world but is especially prevalent among foreigners living in Nordic regions like Denmark.

Non-indigenous ethnic minorities in the country typically experience significant levels of loneliness for many reasons. However, the most common is a feeling of non-belonging.

These minorities usually struggle to feel like they belong in Denmark due to cultural differences, even considering themselves “outsiders” in many ways.

Some of these ethnic minorities include:

  • Jews
  • Indians
  • Sudanese
  • Africans
  • Albanians
  • Arabs
  • Ethiopians

How Do Danish People Manage Depression?

In today’s modern society, depression is a widespread condition. It can affect everything from relationships to productivity and even day-to-day activities.

However, it’s possible to overcome even the most severe depressive episodes through several proven methods.

Danish people have come up with two leading practices to manage depression:

  • Hygge practices 
  • Taking part in cultural activities

The next section of this article explores these activities and how they help with depression.

Hygge Practices

Hygge is a famous Danish concept centered around living life one step at a time, enjoying life’s little pleasures, and cutting out stressors to simplify one’s life.

It also involves finding comfort in one’s home—alone or in the midst of company. [3]

Hygge is Denmark’s take on “hugga,” a Norweigian term meaning “to give comfort.” However, the word, as well as the concept, has gained popularity worldwide.

Hygge is simple but effective and can be practiced alone or with friends, with little to no preparation.

One can practice hygge by turning off the lights and using candles instead. This simple but effective practice improves any space’s ambiance and helps lift moods.

Warm lamps can work just as well and might be better alternatives in place of candles.

And since hygge is centered around ease and the little pleasures, it’s important to prioritize comfort. Soft materials like pillows and weighted blankets can help, as well as woolly socks, hats, and sweaters. 

Hygge also involves eating healthy, drinking well, and unplugging from daily stressors for a certain period. However, connecting with nature is also an integral part of the practice.

And activities like outdoor walks, picnics, or even sitting in a park can go a long way in improving mental health.

Still, connecting with nature as a part of hygge isn’t limited to the outdoors.

Growing some plants, burning wood or pinecones in a fireplace, and even owning a pet can be just as effective.

Taking Part in Cultural Activities

Denmark officials often urge citizens to participate in several activities to boost their morale and help manage their depression.

They call this concept Kulturvitaminer, which is currently being practiced in four cities in Denmark—Aalborg, Vordingborg, Nyborg, and Silkeborg. [4] 

It’s specifically designed to improve social interaction among Danes. People gather in small groups to experience different social activities together.

After all, social media and internet technology have drastically reduced physical contact in many communities, and Kulturvitaminer ensures Danish people satisfy the need for social interaction.

Singalongs, visiting galleries, and even game-themed events are some of the most common Kulturvitaminer activities that Danes practice.

These activities help suppress depression-related anxiety and provide an excellent coping mechanism for people suffering from depression.

Is Therapy Free in Denmark?

Therapy has long been proven to be an effective way to prevent, manage and deal with depression.

However, its availability and affordability vary from region to region, even in several parts of Europe. So, is therapy free in Denmark?

While therapy in Denmark is free for kids and adolescents between 18 and 24 years old upon referral, it is not free for adults.

However, all Danes can receive psychotherapy through public programs at much cheaper rates if a general practitioner refers them.

A general practitioner will ask basic questions to determine if a patient meets the criteria for free or subsidized treatment before being referred.

Some questions that a medical practitioner may ask to determine a patient’s eligibility include:

  • If they’re related to someone that has a mental illness.
  • If they’ve attempted suicide or had suicide ideation.
  • If they’ve been feeling some depression symptoms.
  • If they’ve experienced the death of a loved one.
  • If they have mild, moderate, or severe anxiety. 

However, some medical practitioners may ask even more detailed questions to ascertain a patient’s emotional and mental well-being.

[1] Source
[2] Source 
[3] Source 
[4] Source 

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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