Research on happiness and trust
in Viking cultures

Moesgaard Viking Moot in Aarhus
Viking moot
July in Aarhus

6nd April 2008

Christian Bjørnskov
Associate professor Christian Bjørnskov, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus University

Studies from Aarhus University show that people in countries and areas that are related to the Vikings are generally happier and show more trust than their neighbours. For example, the level of trust is 50 per cent higher in the former Danish province of Slesvig-Holsten than in the rest of western Germany. Slesvig-Holsten is also the happiest region in all of Germany.

An upcoming research project at Aarhus School of Business, University of Aarhus will examine, among other things, how the Vikings created the breeding ground for the Scandinavian legal institutions..

“There is something very special about the so-called Viking countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. No matter what figure we enter into our models, the populations always come out more trusting and happier than populations in other countries. It is highly likely that this is linked to the social norms of the Vikings, which were based to a greater extent on trust. It was a necessity in order for them to maintain trade routes between Ribe and Edinburgh without an official legal system to take care of those who broke mutual agreements,” explains Christian Bjørnskov.

“Two-thirds of the Danish population feel that they can trust other people. That is more than twice as many as in France, for instance, and our studies show that trust helps make the Danish people happy,” says Associate Professor Christian Bjørnskov from ASB who has carried out several of the comprehensive studies.

In 2008, researchers from the University of Aarhus and the University of Southern Denmark will be initiating an interdisciplinary research project, the objective of which is to find answers to, among other things, the connection between the Viking society and the development of the Danish trade and legal institutions, which are of significance to the high happiness and trust rates of the Danes and other Scandinavians.

Professor Gert Tinggaard Svendsen, from the Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, explains:

“We want to look at the Vikings as both warriors and merchants. Both roles have been taken on by our ancestors with such success that it was decisive in the early development of our society. For instance, as warriors and local kings, they collected taxes to protect the population from other Viking gangs. Consequently, over time it became less attractive to be a roaming bandit, and this created enough peace and predictability in the society to enable our trade and legal institutions to begin to develop.

In addition to being a collaboration between Danish researchers and several Scandinavian Viking experts, this new project is also a continuation of the SoCap project, which is funded by, among others, the World Bank.

And particularly the World Bank is very interested in the researchers expanding their knowledge to also include countries like Africa and South America. Many countries can benefit from a greater understanding of what it takes to create a rich and happy society.

Aarhus School of Business

University of Aarhus
Fuglesangs Allé 4
DK 8210 Aarhus
Phone: (+45) 89 48 66 88