Only 14% of the Dutch are unhappy – we’re pretty happy with that result!

If someone asked me to rate how happy the Dutch are after being screamed at by a Dutchie for riding my bike on the wrong side of the bike path, I would answer “not at all. They’re so angry!” But, I would be wrong. A study by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) has found that 86% of Dutchies are satisfied with their lives. Perhaps the very reason I think they are not happy is, in fact, the reason they are – setting boundaries and expectations that lead a good life. 

The CBS study revealed that non-Western people are happier today than they were in 1997, but that people with little education are unhappier. The conclusion being that people with a higher education have more opportunities which generally lead to a more fulfilling life.

How does this compare with the “olden days”? 

In 1997, 91 per cent of youths (18-25 year olds) said they were happy. This has marginally dropped to 86 per cent.

But, it’s good news for senior citizens who have become happier as satisfaction levels rose from 84 to 89 per cent.

So what makes the Dutch such a happy nation?

Most of the factors that contribute to happiness are fairly obvious – time spent with family and friends, education, work-fulfilment, social support and low crime rates. Interestingly, however, those who do not partake in smoking or drinking are significantly less likely to be happy than a person who does smoke or drinks alcohol. Excuse me science, are you saying what I think you’re saying?

Expectations are resentments in the making

Prof Ruut Veenhoven, the director of the World Database of Happiness, believes the Dutch are so happy because young people in the Netherlands aren’t burdened by expectations to achieve highly.

“If you look across Europe, the Dutch and the Danes are the most lenient and focus more on developing autonomy than giving priority to obedience – and that fits the society,” he told The Guardian.  “Children are more free to do what they want, and in doing what they want, develop an idea of what they really like and social skills.”

Is 86% still not good enough? Move to Scandinavia!

The happiest countries only ever seem to rotate between Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden or Finland (side note: do we count Iceland and Finland as “Scandinavia”?) . The most recent report by the United Nations revealed Finland is the happiest nation and the Netherlands came in fifth. The Greeks are rated as the most unhappy nation in Europe. (What a Greek tragedy.)

Are you from Greece? Then travel to the happiest countries!

According to Travelzoo’s senior editor, Gabe Saglie, even travelling to the countries with high happiness levels allows us to absorb good habits and “the pervasive factors that seem to make everyday life there a happy proposition: a sense of community that comes from social support, the joys that come from increased generosity among citizens, and the overall happiness of people who lead a healthy lifestyle.”

CBS says, the satisfaction levels in the Netherlands are so high, that any increase to the happiness levels is barely possible. “Many people in our country already have a high well-being and already give (almost) the maximum score. This creates a ‘ceiling effect’.

Why do you think the Dutch are so happy? Share any insights you might have with us! 

Freya Sawbridge
Freya Sawbridge
Freya was born in Edinburgh but raised in New Zealand (cue every person she meets saying “oh I have always wanted to go there but it’s so far away!”). A restless and curious nature has led her to move countries 5 times in the last 3 years in attempt to find a place she can call home. She contacted DutchReview on a whim and arrived in the Netherlands in summer 2019 to start her internship.


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