You’re a mom with teenage kids, and you won’t believe the following: teenagers are very, very happy.
Nevertheless it’s true. A recent poll among 11, 13 and 15 year old boys and girls in Western countries (from Russia to Canada) by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the vast majority of children have high to very high “life satisfaction”. The average of the 39 polled countries is that 88% of the teens are reporting to be highly happy.
Happiness is not fully correlated with how wealthy the country is that you live in. Case in point is that the kids from the Netherlands and Armenia are the happiest of all. The United States ranks in the lowest quartile, but we must make note that the difference between the happiest kid-country and the somewhat less happier countries is minimal. The United States’ teenagers report around 85% high life satisfaction. The top ranking country of the Netherlands scores around 95%.
Also, there’s very little statistical difference between boys and girls. The more important differences observed in the study are the differences between rich and poor teenagers within each country. For example, American girls from richer families say 14% more often that they are highly happy, and the rich-poor gap for American boys is 13%. Younger girls (11 and 13) are generally slightly more happy than boys of that age, but that changes by age 15, when boys outshine girls.
The key drivers of happiness are according to the WHO investigators:
The relationship with the mother and father
If there’s at least one caring adult around
How good the family communication is
How many supportive friends the teenager has
Is it a two parent family? The researchers call this politically correct “family structure”. They conclude that “children and young people who live with both parents express higher life satisfaction than those living with other relatives, non-relatives or guardians”.
School is an important factor too. How good a young person performs in school greatly influences happiness. “Academic success having a strong positive effect on life satisfaction”, the report states. Whereas factors associated with low life satisfaction are bullying and psychological issues.
The youngsters were asked to rate their life between “the best possible life” and “the worst possible life” on a 0 to 10 scale. A score of 6 and higher was considered “high life satisfaction”.
Source: Social determinant of health and well-being among young people. HBSC; International Report from the 2009/2010 survey. World Health Organization. This report was published in May 2012. Credit for the charts: WHO.