Danes may not be religious, but the majority are spiritually needy – study

In total, 26,678 participants of all ages took part, but it’s unlikely they would have told anybody. Most people tend to be strictly private about such matters

As many as 81.9 percent of Danes have felt a “spiritual need” in the past month, according to a new study. The paper, the largest of its kind to date, gathered data from 26,678 participants of all ages.

The researchers seek to emphasise the links between spiritual belief and physical health, promoting a holistic understanding of healthcare. 

They also point out Denmark’s curious relationship with secularity. “We consider Denmark a ‘post-secular’ culture,” write the researchers.

“By this, we acknowledge that the traditionally secular and non-secular spheres are constantly mixed at macro and micro levels, that spirituality is important and present in the society and in Danes, and that religion and spirituality have not declined as expected with the increase of ‘knowledge’.”

Keeping it shtum
In addition, the study underlines that speaking about spiritual matters is simply not done in Denmark.

“Faith and belief are societal taboos, second only to mental health disorders in magnitude,” the study proclaims.

“Spirituality, however, is very much present and, according to some data, is growing in the population, but is, it seems, practised and dealt with privately.” 

Leaving Luther
Some 75 percent of Danes are still paying members of the Evangelical-Lutheran church. On the other hand, just one Dane in 50 actually goes to church. 

Church membership is more a marker of national identity than spirituality, according to some commentators

In place of traditional Christianity, New Age movements have crept into Danish spiritual life. Buddhism is alive and well here, and the Aesir faith, which has brought back the old Norse pantheon, is making a resurgence.

Beyond this, the vocabularies of mindfulness, yoga and tantric practices – chakras and what not – have made their way into the common parlance. 

Religion not needed
These developments were reflected in the data. While “religious needs” are fairly unimportant for participants, “existential needs” – defined as a need to reflect on life, death and consciousness – were significantly higher.

The most deeply-felt spiritual need for Danes, however, was an “inner peace need”.

Furthermore, women were more likely than men to have spiritual needs, as were divorcees and those who find themselves in a “crisis of meaning”.