Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


British teenagers are among unhappiest in the world

119460-117532Only teenagers in Japan suffer lower levels of mental wellbeing.

Generation Z – those aged 15 – 21 – are happier in France, Germany, Nigeria, Turkey, China, the US, Indonesia, and Russia.

Anxieties about money, school and succeeding in life is what is undermining the mental health of teenagers in the UK.

However young Brits are considerably more enthusiastic about their country than most with more than 2 out of 3 saying it was a good place to live.

While teenagers in Germany and Canada rated their countries higher than UK teenagers , in France only half thought their country was a good place to live and only a quarter in South Korea.

The Varkey Foundation educational charity questioned more than 20,000 children around the world about their confidence, optimism, ability to deal with problems, decisiveness and friendships.

Extremism and the rise of global terrorism  was what worried British teens the most whereas in China it was climate change.

The findings suggest that British children are stressed and anxious with a high rate of mental illness. They feel stressed by growing up and what is expected of them. Half said that school made them feel anxious, followed by money worries. Four out of ten thought the world was becoming a worse place in which to live.

Only 15% of the teenagers questioned said they had enough time to sleep, relax and exercise – factors associated with wellbeing, Well perhaps if they spent less time on social media?

This generation of teenagers hold progressive views about gender equality, equal rights for transgender people, legalised abortion, and same-sex marriage. “Teenagers in Nigeria, Delhi and New York share many of the same priorities, fears , ambitions and opinions. Young people are passionate believers in the right to live the life that they choose, whatever their background, free of prejudice of all kinds”  said the Varkey Foundation’s chief executive.

However they are a generation that is deeply pessimistic about the future of the world


Ditch your smartphone, get out in the countryside, and feel better about yourself

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Nature lovers are significantly less anxious and have higher self-esteem than people obsessed with their smartphones according a recent study.

They are also more conscientious, emotionally stable and more open to new experiences than those addicted to technology.

The on-line research at the University of Derby examined people’s mobile phone use and their connection to nature. Participants were also assessed on their personality and self-esteem

It found that those most in touch with nature used their phone half as much each day as the rest of the population and were more emotionally balanced i.e. 2 hrs 15 mins each day (which seems a lot to me) compared to 4 hrs 8 mins for those less connected to nature.

They also took 87% fewer selfies but three times as many pictures of nature.  So we can probably assume that they are also less narcissistic.

Miles Richardson, head of psychology, said “Nature…

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Girls more depressed & you can blame social media

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stick_figure_liking_it_500_wht_9170On the face of it today’s young people have never had it so good. Teenage pregnancies are down, fewer of them smoke and they drink less than previous generations.

So what have they got to be depressed about?

Well they spend an awful lot of time on social media, posting selfies, seeking approval from others. “Like me, like me” they seem to beg.

It’s a recipe for disaster and means they are continually comparing themselves with others. And it’s all artificial.

They spend hours making themselves up for selfies. I’ve taken loads of photographs at parties and invariably the women want to check the photos to make sure they’re OK.

Whether its posting selfies or posting posed photos on Facebook using cats, cuddly toys and even their babies as accessories, it’s all about wanting approval. Over half of teenagers are said to spend more than three hours…

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London – love it or hate it

P1000602 - Version 2First the good news: London is apparently the world’s best city in which to work.

In a poll of almost 200,000 people in nearly 200 countries, one in six people said they would like to work there. And the UK as a whole came second to the USA although no other city in UK came in the top 40 world-wide .

Brits aren’t as keen to work abroad as other nationalities – only 40% of us compared to 2/3 from other countries according to the Boston Consulting Group and TotalJobs recruitment website. Those who do prefer the US, Canada, Germany, Australia and France. The UK attracts workers from Portugal, Israel, Barbados, Romania and Jamaica.

The international director at TotalJobs said “This report cements London’s position as a truly global city. Not only does it offer a wealth of job opportunities min a range of industries but it boasts some of the world’s top cultural attractions so it’s no surprise that people across the globe want to come and work here.”

London is the only city in Britain to enjoy such popularity based on its high salary prospects, cultural diversity and the finance industry. In America seven cities vied for job attractiveness.

The other 9 cities in the top 10 are (in descending order):

  • New York
  • Paris
  • Sydney
  • Madrid
  • Berlin
  • Barcelona
  • Toronto
  • Singapore
  • Rome

Secondly the bad news. While London may be a magnet for jobseekers from around the world people who live there report the highest levels of unhappiness, dissatisfaction with life, and anxiety than almost everywhere else in Britain.

The nation as a whole feels happier in 2014 than at any time since 2011, thanks largely to the improving economy, with those in the SouthEast, east Midlands, and the NorthEast of England registering the highest levels of life satisfaction.

Although scores have improved Londoners still score lower on every measure. Only 1 in 3 of them said they rarely felt anxious or stressed compared to half the population elsewhere in the country.

The London boroughs of Lambeth and Barking & Dagenham are in the “misery” top five while Hackney has the highest levels of anxiety.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says its research suggests there are drawbacks to living in the capital despite its economic success.

The statisticians point out that population density is a negative factor and the age profile influences the findings with middle-aged adults with children feeling unhappier than younger people.

They also point out that the increase in well-being scores in London may be influenced by expectations of future events as the economic benefits have not yet filtered down into pay packets.


Angst – the Germans really know what that means

german-large-flagGermans come out on top again but this time it’s no laughing matter.

They are now the biggest worriers in Europe despite having a strong economy and one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the EU.

Ireland and Sweden were the most laid back with the British somewhere in the middle of the 12 countries surveyed by German research organisation GfK Verein.

In Britain unemployment and immigration were the top sources of worry followed by economic stability, the NHS, social security and crime.

Unemployment is the top concern across Europe followed by inflation and economic stability. No-one seems concerned any more about the environment and climate change (apart from our politicians). People have more pressing concerns.

A German writer Stefan Ziedenitz said; “logically if you have more to lose you worry more than if you have nothing to lose…. Germans are afraid of change because it could only be for the worse”. The more you have the more you want to preserve it and the less likely you will risk any change.

Over 13,000 people were interviewed in Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain, and Sweden.

The top worries Europe-wide were:

  • unemployment (37% of all responses)
  • inflation (top in Russia)
  • economic stability (top in Netherlands)
  • the health system
  • rent & housing
  • governance
  • pensions
  • education
  • corruption
  • crime

The finding take some pressure off France which had the reputation in 2011 for being the most miserable country


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The end of “stiff upper lips” and a cold sore virus for stress?

Most of us –  80% – believe “it’s good to talk” and better than taking drugs and almost 95% of us believe that we should seek counselling or psychotherapy before our problem gets out of hand.

Brits have definitely lost their stiff upper lips with 1 in 5 having consulted a counsellor or psychotherapist and half knowing someone who has.

This is according to a survey by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy. They say six years ago only two-thirds of us believed in seeking this kind of help for depression or anxiety and now more than 9 out of 10 do. And only half thought it appropriate after a divorce or relationship breakdown and now it’s 85% of us.

Over a million people a year receive treatment for mental health problems and many of these are likely to be women aged between 35 and 54, separated or divorced, and living alone as single parents.

Many people believe that there is not enough talking therapy and doctors are too keen on medication that treats the symptoms but doesn’t get to grips with the causes and with 39 million prescriptions a year for depression you can see their point.

Meanwhile in America Californian scientists believe they are on the point of a breakthrough in developing a vaccine to tackle stress that with a single injection will relax us without slowing us down. Dr Robert Sapolsky believes that he can now alter brain chemistry to create a “focussed calm”.

This genetically engineered alternative to yoga and pills uses a modified herpes virus to get modified genes into the brain. It short-circuits the feedback caused by stress so you don’t have lingering feelings of tension and will be less likely to continue to snap at people after a stressful event.

So far it works in rats but the scientists are optimistic that they can develop this for humans in the near future. Given how many people suffer at the moment this will probably be welcomed but we shouldn’t forget that stress symptoms exist to warn us something is not right.