The Happiness Gene: What Makes Scandinavians the Happiest People?

The more similar the genes to Denmark, the happier the country is.
by | March 23, 2016

“Happiness” can mean a lot of different things to people. As the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side, but a new study proves that the grass may just be greener on the side with the duly inclined gene pool.

According to the World Happiness Report 2016, Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland round out the top three happiest countries in the world based on culture, corruption, equality, freedom of choice, social support, life expectancy and GDP.


This isn’t the first year for Scandinavian countries to top the list, prompting Eugenio Proto, a professor of economics at the UK University of Warwick and his colleague Andrew Oswald, to compare the genes of people from 131 countries.

The results have been astounding. Based on the data from various polls and surveys, they discovered that the more similar the genes to Denmark, the happier the country was, explaining how Denmark’s neighboring countries came in close second and third. Alternately, the greater a nation’s genetic distance meant that the country was less happy.

The controversial study discovered a mutation of a gene that governs the release of serotonin, one of the four neurochemical transmitters responsible for the feeling of happiness. This mutation, which resulted in a shorter copy of the gene, was reportedly found in a very low percentage of Danes—a connection that meant Denmark ranked the happiest. The higher a percentage of the population with the gene meant a lower happiness ranking among its people.

Before you start feeling bad that you were born a Pacific Islander, the study also found that this gene can be passed down between generations—which means that if you can trace your family tree and find a relative from one of the happy Scandinavian countries, then you may possibly carry the non-mutated gene yourself.

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