New hypotheses regarding the Danish health puzzle
Bakah, M. & Raphael, D.
Aims: Nordic welfare states have achieved admirable population health profiles as a result of public policies that provide economic and social security across the life course. Denmark has been an exception to this rule, as its life expectancies and infant mortality rates since the mid-1970s have lagged behind the other Nordic nations and, in the case of life expectancy, behind most Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations. Methods: In this review paper, we identify a number of new hypotheses for why this may be the case. Results: These hypotheses concern the health effects of neo-liberal restructuring of the economy and its institutions, the institution of flexi-security in Denmark’s labour market and the influence of Denmark’s tobacco and alcohol industries. Also of note is that Denmark experienced higher unemployment rates during its initial period of health stagnation, as well as its treatment of non-Western immigrants and high wealth inequality and, until recently, the fact that Denmark did not systematically address the issue of health inequalities. Conclusions: These hypotheses may serve as covering explanations for the usually provided accounts of elevated behavioural risks and psychosocial stress as being responsible for Denmark’s health profile.