Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Why Danes are smug: comparative study of life satisfaction in the European Union

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 21 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:1289

Rapid Response:

Re: Why Danes are smug: comparative study of life satisfaction in the European Union

Denmark has once again (year 2013) been ranked as the happiest nation in the world (1). A survey from the Danish Medical Association among 2447 out of 4953 Danish Chief physicians (from 2011) showed, that 84% of Chief physicians are either satisfied or very satisfied with their job, 90 per cent find that they provide an important effort and 80 per cent feel motivation and commitment to the work (2).

Denmark is a country with 5.608.784 inhabitants (3) and has around 2.628.000 employed people between age 15 and 64 (3). We have 16300 beds in 53 public hospitals (4) employing 102.500 people of whom 14 percent are medical doctors (4). There are very few private hospitals. There are 3600 general practitioners (with 41.000.000 contacts per year) and 1195 specialists working outside the hospital. 95 out of 100 Danes are annually in contact with health care either through the hospital, general practitioners, specialists or dentists (4). The annual Danish health care cost is approximately 100 billion Danish kroner which is 17920 kroner per Dane (approximately 3140 $ per person per year). 79% of the budget is used by public hospitals (4). All public hospitals are free.

The capital of Copenhagen is on 56° North and we have only 6 months of vitamin D production in the skin per year from April to September and half of the Danes have vitamin D deficiency. So it might not be the sun that makes us happy?

As a doctor you must pay more than 50% in income-tax, but we get some of the money back through the welfare services. All public-, high school and universities are free. The students that have left home (as most do) will every month get money from the government throughout their studies. My three sons are all studying medicine at the University of Copenhagen and like all other students each of them receive 5.753 Danish kroner monthly (around 1000 $) (5)– they pay a little income-tax as well. Half of the money is spent on paying for accommodation and the rest is used for food, transportation, books and happiness!!!

As a doctor I work full time at a University Hospital – 37 hours a week from 8 am to 3.24 pm (sometimes a little more – but only few work more than 45 hours a week because the income-tax % increases with the income – so why work more?). We have five weeks paid holiday plus an extra week, which we can convert to extra income. I always take 6 weeks of holiday together with my 4 kids and husband thus getting a bit of the sunshine, which could help avoiding vitamin D deficiency. Why should I not be happy?


Competing interests: Board member of Eli Lilly, MSD and Amgen and has received lecture fees from Lilly, Amgen and GlaxoSmithKline

17 September 2013
Pia A. Eiken
MD ph.d, Chief Physician ,Specialist in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology
Dept. Cardiology, Nephrology, Endocrinology, Hillerød Hospital, Dyrehavevej 29, 3400 Hillerød, Denmark and Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dyrehavevej 29, 3400 Hillerød, Denmark