Why Are Norwegian People So Depressed?

Norway has consistently topped assessments like the UN’s World Happiness Report for the past decade. However, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. Depression seems to be a cause for concern in this country.

Norwegian people are so depressed due to factors like poor health, low income, and unemployment.

Most Norwegians who feel depressed or unhappy belong to the young adult and elderly age groups. Also, depression rates worsened during the pandemic due to a lack of social contact. 

As you’ll read in this article, although Norway is a country often depicted as a utopia, a significant number of people suffer and struggle with feelings of sadness.

Also, see Animals That Live in Norway to learn more.

Is Depression Common in Norway?

As the country that held first place in the 2017 World Happiness Report, it might seem obvious that depression is practically non-existent in Norway [1].

However, there is still a significant portion of the population who are not as happy as the statistics make them out to be.

Depression is common in Norway, and a national survey of 5,500 participants revealed that 8.1% or 136 participants diagnosed themselves as depressed [2].

Meanwhile, a European Social Survey indicated that 13.2% of Norwegians suffered or struggled emotionally from 2012 to 2016 [3].

During the pandemic, these numbers increased, with 3 out of 10 Norwegians, or 30.8% of participants reporting feeling depressed [4].

This figure is more than double the usual rates of depression in pre-pandemic Norway.

Furthermore, the suicide rate in Norway hasn’t declined for the past 20 years [5].

While not all depressed individuals commit suicide (and vice versa), it still shows that negative emotions and tendencies for suicide, depression, and unhappiness exist in this “happy” country. 

Overall, although Norway’s depression and unhappiness rates may not be as high as other countries, they are significant enough to be a problem.

Factors That Contribute to Depression Among Norwegian People

Understanding why people are depressed is crucial to helping them. As such, several studies were undertaken in Norway to gather data on the different causes of unhappiness.

The studies found that these are the main factors contributing to depression or unhappiness in Norway:

  • Poor physical and mental health
  • Low income or income inequality
  • Unemployment
  • Lack of social contact
  • Neurotic personality
  • Gender

Poor Physical Health

A report entitled “In the Shadow of Happiness” highlighted that the Norwegian elderly (80 years old and above) felt more unhappy than the rest of the population.

A primary reason for this is a decline in their mental and physical health.

As people age, they become more prone to various illnesses. Experiencing these diseases negatively affects their quality of life and mental well-being.

As a result, they tend to feel more unhappy or depressed.

Another hypothesis is that since worries like crime and poverty are not much of a concern for a developed country like Norway, their fear generally shifts toward health.

Poor Mental Health

Poor mental health is the second factor contributing to depression in Norway. In fact, one’s mental well-being significantly affects how unhappy or depressed one feels, no matter where they live. 

Among young Norwegian adults (18 to 23 years old), poor mental health is the top factor for their unhappiness and depression.

Within five years, there was a 40% increase in young people experiencing mental health issues. Meanwhile, 44% of teenage girls in Norway reportedly suffer from mental stress [6].

Another piece of evidence pointing to poor mental health is the rapid increase in the number of antidepressant prescriptions between 1995 and 2005.

Despite the increase in medication, there was no decline in suicide rates. 

The exact cause of poor mental health is too complex to diagnose. But here are a few reasons why young adults suffer from poor mental health: 

  • Loneliness 
  • Stress 
  • Perfectionism culture [7]
  • Financial crisis 
  • Social media/Technology [8]

The country’s national suicide program needs to be improved based on feedback to truly curb suicide and address the mental health issues plaguing Norwegians. 

Low Income or Unemployment

“Money doesn’t buy happiness” is an adage many tend to quote. However, money is what helps people pay for necessities and feel secure about the future, both of which are foundational to satisfaction and happiness.

Thus, it is no surprise that low income, income inequality, and unemployment contribute to depression. In low-income countries, income is an even more significant factor in depression and unhappiness than mental health.

It’s also no surprise that the top 10% of Norwegians (based on income) seldom claim that they are suffering, struggling, or unhappy.

This doesn’t necessarily imply that all rich people are happy. However, the rich typically have a better sense of security, the ability to pay for resources, and lower financial stress.

Lack of Social Contact

As mentioned, there was a three-fold increase in the number of Norwegians feeling depressed during and after the pandemic.

Although anxiety is a factor, another important reason for them feeling this way is loneliness

Loneliness and not having meaningful social relationships has always been a significant cause of depression.

The influence of this factor can be seen clearly in elderly men who are depressed. Because of their age and gender, they are less likely to meet up with friends and family, which leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness.


Personality also plays a crucial role in the tendency to be depressed. It was found that people who have neurotic, less extroverted, and unconfident characters are more prone to depression.

For those unfamiliar with neuroticism or neurotic personalities, it refers to a natural tendency to feel anxiety and other negative emotions.

Thus, high neuroticism often correlates to an increased risk of depression.


It has been observed that women are often reported as being more depressed than men. However, this is not solely because of gender, but merely a correlation.

This disparity is because women are more likely to report feelings of depression than men.

Another explanation is that, on average, women tend to exhibit neuroticism more than men, hence the higher risk of depression. [9] 

Seek Help for Depression 

People experiencing symptoms of depression should seek help from professionals.

Norwegians may contact the country’s suicide hotline: 113 [10] if they are in a dire state. For less urgent but similar concerns, they may also reach out through this number: 116 117

Besides those telephone numbers, Norwegians can also connect with their general practitioners, municipal psychologists, outreach teams, or healthy life centers for assistance. 

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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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