Denmark usually comes top of studies examining levels of personal happiness around the world. Now British-based researchers say they may they have the answer - genes, specifically a mutation of a gene linked to suppression of serotonin levels, which they say is rare among people of Danish heritage. Jim Drury reports.
UPSOT: 'DENMARK DENMARK' Denmark invariably comes top of surveys naming the world's happiest nation. UPSOT: 'DENMARK DENMARK' University of Warwick economists have spotted an interesting trend among the data. After examining various existing studies, co-author Dr Eugenio Proto found that people with a genetic make-up closest to the Danes are more cheerful. SOUNDBITE (English) DR EUGENIO PROTO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS AT UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK, SAYING: "The further you are genetically from Denmark the lower is the life satisfaction or subjective well-being of the country. The further you are from Denmark the sadder you are." Even those living abroad, but with distant Danish heritage, score higher for life satisfaction than indigenous people in their country of residence. Proto's team believe it could be caused by a mutation of a gene that produces serotonin, a mutation that's rare among Danes. SOUNDBITE (English) DR EUGENIO PROTO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ECONOMICS AT UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK, SAYING: "Many geneticists, would disagree with that probably but it's a fact that the happier country were the countries who had the lowest percentage of people with this genetic mutation." University of Copenhagen genomics professor Tom Gilbert is fascinated by the study, but says the age of genetic determinism remains in its infancy. SOUNDBITE (English) TOM GILBERT, PROFESSOR OF GENOMICS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN, SAYING: "The major problem here - and they do acknowledge this - is that whether that gene is actually linked to happiness or depression is controversial and this is a fundamental problem of many many genetics/genomics studies today. A lot of associations are based on relationships you see, correlations between a trait and between a particular mutation and whether that actually encodes it is another question and I think really that's a thing that future studies have to look at, but it's certainly a very, very interesting correlation." Students at the University of Copenhagen are surprised by the theory. SOUNDBITE (English) ANNE VEDEL, STUDENT AT UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN, SAYING: "I'm not sure it's the genetic make-up but it could be, of course. But I'm generally a happy person." SOUNDBITE (English) ASGER BOLWIG, STUDENT AT UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN, SAYING: "I've heard about all these studies telling that the Danes are the most happy in the world and I thought 'yes, that's because we have such a good welfare state..but now, yeah, I'm a little confused, I must say." UPSOT: CROWD CHEERING And whether it's down to genes or generous social policies, the Danes are happy to celebrate their title as the most contented people on the planet. UPSOT: 'DENMARK DENMARK'