Why Are Swedes So Depressed?

To the outside world, Sweden and many other Nordic countries have a reputation for being happy and full of life.

But beneath the surface, many Swedes struggle with mental health issues, among other things. So, why are Swedes so depressed?

Many Swedes are depressed for several reasons. For example, they might be more depressed during winter due to the lack of daylight hours.

Not getting enough sunlight can negatively affect one’s mood, which is a big issue. Other reasons may include the high cost of living or loneliness.

This article will discuss whether depression is common in Sweden. It will also outline the factors often contributing to higher depression rates in Sweden.

Also, see Can Swedes Understand Norwegian? to learn more.

Is Depression Common in Sweden?

Unfortunately, depression is relatively common in Sweden. According to a Eurofound study, Sweden has one of the highest reported depression rates in the EU. [1]

And that is only based on people who come forward or are diagnosed.

There are likely many more Swedish people suffering from depression that is not reported because they haven’t been diagnosed or seen a medical professional to receive help.

The study found that young women across the EU were more likely to experience depression than any other group, and this could be due to things like unemployment or lack of training and education. 

It’s essential to understand that these statistics are based on reported cases of depression—there may be many men in Sweden and across the rest of the EU who simply don’t come forward and aren’t counted in these studies.

Still, it’s clear to see from this study that depression is common in Sweden.

Main Reasons Swedes Are Depressed

If there are a lot of Swedish people who suffer from depression, there must be good reasons for it. Below are the main things that could be causing depression among Swedish citizens.

The Weather

Sweden is located in Northern Europe, so it’s one of the colder countries on the continent. However, the climate largely depends on the region.

For example, the north of Sweden gets a lot colder than the southern parts. The cold weather may negatively impact many people’s mental health. 

But no matter what the region may be and how cold the weather, the winter days are short and dull. 

During winter, Sweden (like some other European countries) only gets between five and six hours of sunlight each day, which can significantly impact the mental health of its citizens.

Since most Swedes must start work at around 9 am and finish around 5 pm, they’re likely to see little sunlight during winter.

As a result, seasonal depression–also known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder)–is more common. The negative feelings and depression caused by seasonal changes generally begin during fall. [2]

High Cost of Living

According to a 2020 article by Forbes, Sweden was ranked as the 23rd most expensive country in the world. [3]

Housing, groceries, and electricity costs are high, so Swedes must spend a lot of money each month. 

All this spending can adversely affect their mental health and general well-being, as it causes stress and anxiety, especially for those with families to care for.

Lack of Treatment for Mental Health Issues

According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, depression is an issue in Sweden for different reasons (including low quality of life) and is generally undertreated. [4]

Sweden needs better solutions to help its citizens combat their mental health issues and prevent them from returning.

For example, some doctors in Sweden may not take depression as seriously as they should.

Unfortunately, if Swedish people are undertreated or not treated for their depression, it is unlikely to get better and may even worsen over time.

Homelessness and Other Social Issues

Although Sweden is generally a prosperous country with plenty of opportunities, social issues like homelessness and alcoholism exist. 

Many people in Sweden rely on alcohol to get by, including functioning alcoholics.

Functioning alcoholics are those who rely on alcohol but can still function in society by going to work and doing other everyday things. 

According to the Karolinska Institutet, over one million Swedes may depend on alcohol. [5]

And when someone becomes dependent on alcohol, they may eventually experience signs of depression that must be alleviated by drinking more alcohol. Then, it becomes a vicious cycle.

In addition to alcoholism, there were 33,300 homeless people in Sweden in 2017. [6]

There are over 10,000,000 people in Sweden, so 33,300 isn’t a huge chunk of the entire population.

Still, homelessness in Sweden affects many people across the country and can lead to depression and other issues like drug or alcohol dependence.


Sweden has one of the world’s highest rates of solo dwellers, with around 47% of homes and apartments housing a single person. [7]

While this is generally seen as a positive and progressive way to live, it can also increase the instances of loneliness. 

Eventually, loneliness can lead to sad feelings, which can quickly or slowly turn into depression. Of course, there are lonely people everywhere, so this isn’t exclusive to Sweden.

But since Sweden has such a high number of single people living alone, it’s a likely cause of depression across the nation.


Sweden is generally a prosperous country with plenty of opportunities for its citizens, but unemployment is still an issue for some.

Since there is a lot of uncertainty that comes with unemployment, it can be a major cause of depression.

When people are unemployed, they have less financial control and freedom, creating panic and feelings of despair.

Plus, people who don’t have jobs have far more time to think about everything since they don’t have a place to be each day.

For these people, overthinking, overanalyzing, and negativity can quickly become issues.

Thankfully, unemployment is declining in Sweden. Even so, the number of unemployed people in Sweden in 2022 was around 373,000. [8]

Although this was a decrease from the previous year, it’s still a large number of people without jobs.

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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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