Happy elderly Swedes are ‘eternal teenagers’

Swedes are among the happiest people in Europe, according to new research. And happiest of all in the Nordic nation is the older rock 'n' roll generation in their 60s and 70s. The Local caught up with a couple of experts to find out why.

Happy elderly Swedes are 'eternal teenagers'
Swedish pensioners are happier than their children. Photo: Shutterstock

With Friday marking the International Day of Happiness, the EU's statistics agency has released fresh figures showing just how satisfied Europeans are with their lives.

It probably come as little surprise that Sweden, which has consistently been high up in happiness lists for decades now, came out among the top in the new survey.

The Eurostat study asked people across the EU to rate their life satisfaction on a scale of zero to ten, with zero indicating “not satisfied at all” and ten meaning “fully satisfied”.

Swedes across all age groups gave an average answer of 8.0, which was good enough to put Sweden in a four-way tie for first place with Denmark, Finland and Switzerland.

Interestingly, while the study found that throughout the EU young people tend to be more satisfied with life than elderly respondents, that trend is reversed both in Sweden and Denmark.

People aged 25-34 are the unhappiest in Sweden, rating their life satisfaction at a mere 7.8, whereas their older counterparts in the age bracket 65-74 ranked it a whopping 8.3, just behind Denmark at 8.6 and Switzerland at 8.4.

“We live longer and are healthier. A 65-year-old nowadays has many good years left after their pension. Their health is better and they feel that they can live their life. We notice with our readers that they spend a copious amount of time travelling and holidaying abroad, and take part in a lot of activities,” Gunilla Lindahl, editor-in-chief of Veteranen ('The Veteran'), a membership magazine for Swedish pensioners' organization SPF, told The Local.

The survey comes just weeks after research at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg suggested that elderly Swedes have more and better sex than ever, thanks to improved health and changing norms in society.

And Lindahl said that the stereotypical image of a pensioner being an old lady with a handbag does not exist anymore.

“People born in the 1940s are part of the rock generation. They grew up listening to the Stones, Beatles and Elvis and are eternal teenagers, even when they get older,” she said.

READ MORE: Pensioners recruit ageing Swedish rockers

Swedes over the age of 75 gave their life satisfaction an rating of 8.1, a small dip compared to just after pension age, but still higher than the younger age groups.

“It's great to hear that they too feel pleased with their lives. Of course it's not the case for everyone and many feel that they are overlooked by society. But all in all we have a high standard of living here in the North, with possibly better pensions and welfare than in other parts of Europe, where it's often down to the rest of the family to look after its elderly members," said Lindahl.

Our sister site The Local Denmark spoke with the director of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen who said that the results “go against the common perception that we are happy when we are young and then it is all downhill from there.”

“Some people say that the 46th year of life is a global low point for happiness. One explanation for this could of course be that this is a time when we are pressured both from our career and by our children. Another explanation is that this might be the time of life when we must come to terms with the fact that we are just like everyone else – we're not going to be big movie stars or football players and that might be hard to swallow for some,” Happiness Research Institute CEO Meik Wiking explained.

READ MORE: Sweden best place in the world to grow old

Wiking, whose institute studies happiness trends around the world, also said life satisfaction has a direct impact on life span.

“We know there is a link between happiness and health, so happier people have a lower mortality rate. That means that over time, those who are still alive will have a higher happiness average,” he said.

“It's not that people become happier [as they age], it's that the unhappy ones die,” he said.

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Police probe mystery death at Swedish care home after spate of overdoses

Police are investigating one case of murder and two attempted murders at a care home in the west of Sweden, after a doctor raised the alarm about suspicious insulin overdoses.

Police probe mystery death at Swedish care home after spate of overdoses
At least of the women did not normally receive insulin injections. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT
“There is one man who died in connection to the events,” Stina Lundqvist, the prosecutor in the case, told the local Göteborgs Tidning newspaper.
“All of these three people who received a medication which they were not supposed to have, according to what they were prescribed,” she added in an interview with Swedish state radio broadcaster SR
“We are investigating the events as attempted murder,” she told Sweden's TT newswire, which reported that it could be a case of active euthanasia, which is illegal in Sweden, although the prosecutor did not comment.
The doctor reported his suspicions to the police after two women from the same section of the care home were admitted to the hospital, both suffering from extremely low blood sugar. 
“Through giving the plaintiff insulin, someone has caused her to lose consciousness and stop breathing,” a senior doctor at the hospital wrote in a police report.
The doctor added that the woman would not have been capable of administering the insulin herself. 
In January this year, a third resident from the same section of the same care home, was also admitted to the hospital suffering from low blood sugar. It was then that police put a prosecutor on the case. 
“It's unlikely to be a coincidence because it is all from the same section and is the same type of event,” Lundqvist told TT.
“But it's a slightly special case. We can't say with confidence that this is an attempted murder. That's something we hope the investigation will shed some light on.” 
“There are certain elements which suggest a crime has been committed, although exactly what evidence this is, I cannot go into at present.” 
At least one of the women did not normally take insulin, and another was admitted with a type of insulin in her body different from that which she was prescribed. 
According to a report in a local newspaper, a police search of the home found two empty insulin pens containing fast-acting insulin which were not registered in the home's records. 
Lundqvist said it was a “complicated investigation”, as many of the staff who worked at the home at the time had already moved on. 
“We have no one at present we could reasonably call a suspect, but of course there are people we are looking closely at,” she said. “It's of course a natural part of our investigation to look at who has been working at the home when all the events took place.” 
The prosecutor in the case, Stina Lundqvist, says there is not yet a suspect. Photo: Adam Ihse/Exponera