Danes number one at sticking together

Danish society is the most closely knit in the world, German study concludes

Although politicians and pundits spend much time pontificating and wringing their collective hands over how quickly Danish society appears to be falling apart, a German study found that is not the case at all.

Using what was called a 'scientific formula' to rank 34 western countries, the study by the Bertelsmann Foundation ranked Denmark number one in societal cohesion, closely followed by the other Nordic countries.

Dimensions including people's social network, trust in others, confidence in social and political institutions, willingness to help others and participation in public activities were examined.

The reason for Denmark attaining the top spot, according to the study, is the country's strong welfare model.

“The Nordic countries have the strong welfare state in common, which redistributes wealth and creates equal opportunity,” reads the report. “The quality of institutions is also high, all of which seem to be success factors contributing to unity in the Nordic countries.”

The study found that prosperity, equitable income distribution and technological progreess were the three most important conditions promoting a cohesive society.

Following the Nordic countries on the list were New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United States. The study's authors concluded that those countries' high prosperity levels helped pull people together. Southern and eastern European countries finished at the bottom of the list.

Although immigration is often blamed for weakening a country’s sense of cohesion, the German study actually indicated that immigration had a small but positive effect in uniting a populace.

"The greater the proportion of immigrants, the greater the societal unity," reads the report.

Countries with a strong history of immigration like the US and Canada measured above average on the unity scale.

While Denmark rated poorly for 'acceptance of diversity', it ranked high in having a sense of national identity.

Søren Espersen of the right-wing Dansk Folkeparti attributed Denmark’s top marks to economic security but said that the positive effect of immigration on society was debatable.

"If you asked Danes if they consider Islam a threat to the Danish cohesion, I am pretty sure that I can guess what the answer would be," Espersen told Berlingske.

Religion as a whole seemed to hurt, rather than help, the sense of unity in society.

“Those societies that called themselves highly religious seemed to lack strong cohesion, while things like globalisation, ethnic diversity and a culture of competition – which are often thought to undermine a society – actually seem to create unity,” the report stated.

As if the high marks in the German study weren’t enough, something called 'The Mauvist Revolution' also gave Denmark a number one rating on its list of the top 'Mauvist nations'. According to its website, Mauvist countries are those that focus on “equality, justice for all, a renewed affinity with nature, genuine participatory democracy and human rights”. 

The Bertelsmann report can be read here, and the 'mauve list' is available here.