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Youngers becoming less happy than older generations

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Global research shows that younger generations are experiencing “the equivalent of a midlife crisis,” which is making them less happy than older generations. The top doctor in America has cautioned that “young people are really struggling.”

The US surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, compared letting kids use social media to giving them unproven medication. He called it “insane” that governments had not been able to effectively manage social media in recent years.

According to recent data, young people in North America are becoming less happy than their elders, and a similar “historic” shift is predicted to occur in western Europe. Murthy discussed this with the Guardian.

The US is no longer among the top 20 happiest countries, according to the 2024 World Happiness Report, due to declining wellbeing among those under 30.

The trend seems to have reversed in 2017 after 12 years in which Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 were found to be happy than older generations. The difference has also closed across western Europe, and it is anticipated that this trend will continue over the next year or two.

Murthy described the report findings as a “red flag that young people are really struggling in the US and now increasingly around the world”. He said he was still waiting to see data that proved social media platforms were safe for children and adolescents, and called for international action to improve real-life social connections for young people.

The World Happiness Report, an annual barometer of wellbeing in 140 nations coordinated by Oxford University’s Wellbeing Research Centre, Gallup and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, showed “disconcerting drops [in youth happiness] especially in North America and western Europe,” said Prof Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, director of the Wellbeing Research Centre and editor of the study.

“To think that in some parts of the world children are already experiencing the equivalent of a midlife crisis, demands immediate policy action,” he said.

The falling wellbeing scores for North America (in a grouping that includes Australia and New Zealand) “contradicts a well-established notion … that kids start out happier before they slide down the U-curve towards a mid-life crisis before [wellbeing] picks up again,” De Neve added.

British people under 30 ranked 32nd in the rankings, behind nations such as Moldova, Kosovo and even El Salvador, which has one of the world’s highest murder rates.

By contrast British over-60s made it into the top 20 of the world’s happiest older generations. Earlier this month a majority of British teenagers told pollsters they expect their lives to be worse than the previous generation.

The US fell eight places in the overall happiness rankings to 23rd, but when only the under-30s were asked the world’s richest nation ranked 62nd – behind Guatemala, Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria. If the views of only people aged 60 and over were accounted for, the US was the 10th happiest nation.

“For the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, happiness has decreased in all age groups, but especially for the young, so much so that the young are now, in 2021-23, the least happy age group,” the report found. In 2010 the young were happier than those in midlife.

The report does not reveal the causes of the changes, but they come amid increasing concern at the impact of rising social media use, income inequalities, the housing crisis, and fears about war and climate change on the happiness of children and young people.

Murthy said US adolescents were spending nearly five hours a day on social media on average and a third were staying up until midnight on week nights on their devices. He called for legislation “now” to reduce harms to young people from social media including limiting or eliminating features such as like buttons and infinite scrolling.

The World Happiness Report tracks subjective wellbeing using respondents’ own assessments of their lives and their positive and negative emotions. Once again Finland, Denmark and Iceland were the top three happiest countries.

Jukka Siukosaari, Finland’s ambassador to London, said his nation had managed to create an “infrastructure of happiness” including a “safe and secure environment”, affordable opportunities for people to express themselves culturally, and relatively equal incomes. “It all begins with high levels of trust between citizens and our institutions,” he said.

Costa Rica and Kuwait were new entrants to the top 20. Germany dropped from 16th to 24th. Afghanistan and Lebanon stayed as the two least happy nations. Countries that enjoyed increasing happiness included many African nations, Cambodia, Russia and China. Serbia recorded the biggest increase in happiness.

Childhood wellbeing and emotional health may be the best predictor for adult life satisfaction, the report found. Earlier research has concluded adolescents and young adults who report higher life satisfaction earn significantly higher levels of income later in life, even accounting for differences in education, intelligence, physical health and self-esteem.

Lord Layard, a Labour peer in the UK parliament and co-editor of the report, said child wellbeing should be a big issue at the general election expected to be held this year. “We need pledges to upgrade mental health support teams and to make them universal across the country. And life skills should be taught in every school,” he said.

Mzaad
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Daily Dazzling Dawn is the first and only international and non-profitable newspaper, which is 100% ownership of professional journalists from Bangladeshi origin with 20 years of experience in global journalism. The main aim of the newspaper is promoting ethical journalism with truth, accuracy and proficiency.

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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