Is Being Too Comfortable Killing Your Happiness?
What Denmark can teach us about the trap of privilege
I live in Denmark, which, for many years, has been ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. Danes live in a socialist society where free healthcare and education are guaranteed to everyone. Therefore, having a master’s degree is common, and many earn a middle-class salary. Without the burden of any healthcare or educational debts, people have plenty of disposable income to spend on traveling, restaurants, and other indulgences, and they often report having a healthy work-life balance. This balance ensures high social cohesion, minimal crime, and low levels of intolerance. However, despite these gifts, Denmark has one of the highest anti-depressant rates in the world, and that rate is increasing.
Experts have difficulty understanding this apparent paradox, but I believe the answer is revealed in two quotes from the Batman trilogy.
The Batman trilogy begins where the hero must train martial arts to become his strongest self. With this strength, he fights adversaries and creates a city of peace where its citizens can prosper. Afterward, he isolates himself from the world and spends the next ten years enjoying the comforts of his mansion where his muscles and reflexes naturally weaken. This is not a problem until a new villain attacks him and says, “Victory has defeated you.”
When we are victorious, it is natural to want to spoil those closest to us and give them a better life. Unfortunately, when we are surrounded by privilege designed to protect us and give us a head start, we can often become “weakened,” just like Batman. Our ability to stand up for ourselves, fight for our passions, and overcome obstacles atrophies and the smallest things can have the power to defeat us. Without a healthy amount of tension, we don’t get the opportunity to build a strong mental health defense system for ourselves. Then, when anything bad happens, which creates a natural and normal level of sadness, it is interpreted as depression. Finally, since proper self-help skills aren’t developed, medication is administered, which does not change the situation at all, resulting in people assuming there is something wrong with themselves.