The nations of Scandinavia are quite amazing, on many fronts. For example, they have among the lowest rates of poverty in the world. All of their citizens enjoy excellent and free—or rather, tax-subsidized—health care, education, vocational training, and various social services. They are incredibly rich and prosperous nations, but they share their wealth to such a degree that they are among the most equal societies on earth, with a relatively small gap between rich and poor. Their elder care and child care are also excellent—and heavily subsidized.
And there’s more. They have among the lowest murder and violent crime rates in the world, among the lowest recidivism rates, the best parental leave policies in the world, and well-funded libraries, theaters, and cultural centers. Their streets are clean, their parks are green, and their public transportation system is easy and efficient. Oh, and their levels of corruption are among the lowest in the world, while their levels of trust are among the highest. And they also work hard for women’s rights and gay rights. And they are among the most environmentally progressive societies in the world.
And, well, Abba.
Oh, and I should also add that they are among the most secular —that is, least religious—societies on planet Earth, thereby showing that a society need not worship God or attend church in order to be successful, harmonious, and moral.
In short—by combining the best aspects of capitalism (profit motive, competition, private investment, risk, innovation, etc.) with a progressive tax system that supports an extensive welfare state, as well as a highly unionized workforce—the nations of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark are extremely safe, peaceful, wealthy, egalitarian, well-educated, and happy; according to various Happiness reports , they always cluster at the top as being among the most happy people in the world.
But wait—don’t they have the highest suicide rates?
No! They don’t.
So please stop throwing up “highest suicide rate” whenever Scandinavian success is championed ( yes, my daughter’s high school history teacher, I’m talking to you ).
I’ve written this post just to set the record straight: The nations of Scandinavia do not have the highest suicide rates.
Let’s just look at the rankings, shall we?
According to the World Health Organization’s latest data :
First, the male suicide rate by country:
1. Sri Lanka
7. Equatorial Guinea
8. Cote D’Ivoire
10. South Korea
46. United States
Now, here’s the female suicide rate by country:
2. Sierra Leone
4. [no country listed]
6. North Korea
8. South Korea
10. Equatorial Guinea
66. United States
OK, everyone clear? Sweden, Denmark, and Norway do not lead the world in suicide.
Far from it.
Of course, Scandinavian nations are far from perfect. What society is? There are problems and issues, such as alcohol and drug abuse, xenophobia, friction with immigrants, etc. But despite these matters, Scandinavians have managed—more than any other modern peoples - to create countries based on increasing contentment and well-being—and reducing pain and suffering—for as many people as possible. They’ve done it with pragmatic social policies, morally-minded political ideologies, a highly unionized labor force, high and progressive taxes, and very weak religious faith.
And no, they don’t have the highest suicide rate in the world.