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


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French now not so miserable? Sacre Bleu!

Almost four years ago I posted about the French being the most miserable race in Europe.

It appears things are changing but not everyone is happy about it, naturally.

9782738129055Apparently the French have found an appetite for self-help books – buying 6 million by over 700 different authors in 2014 – and books promoting optimism such as “And Don’t Forget to be Happy” by psychiatrist Christophe André, “Change for the Better” also written by a psychiatrist the appropriately named Professor Michel Lejoyeux, “I’m Stopping Complaining” by French business consultant Christine Lewicki, and “Become Yourself” by economist Jaques Attali.

Intellectuals, however, are unhappy with these attempts to banish pessimism and negativity as they see this as an American concept unsuited to to the natural Gallic temperament. They would rather their compatriots stuck to Baudelaire’s miserable poetry or Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables rather than adopt the philosophy in Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy“.

An economist, Claudia Senik, says that the French are (still) 20% less happy than their counterparts in other European countries and “are in a spiral of self-fulfilling pessimism. They have a very high social ideal which is unreal and unrealistic and in fact this makes them unhappy“.

Many people are saying that the search for happiness is a delusion only likely to produce further misery.While you mull that over have a listen to Pharrell Williams

And if you are female and want to be more like French women read how to do it here



What makes you happy – part 2

Despite what England fans might feel right now football competitions can make you happy as I said in an earlier post – but only in the short-term – and only if you are the host country.

But even that doesn’t make you as happy as a good marriage. Married people are happier than single people (it could be that happy people get married more easily). And the 30% improvement in happiness due to being married makes up for  all the negative affects of unemployment.

Just don’t get divorced (the two worst life events are losing a spouse and unemployment).

How do you know if people are really happy? Women look less happy but angrier than they are, whereas men look less angry and happier than they are. Probably because we expect women to be happier than men and men angrier than women and we notice when people display behaviour that doesn’t fit our expectations.

Optimism is associated with happiness, good physical and mental health and longevity whereas stress lowers our immune system so we are more likely to become ill. So middle-aged people who are happy have fewer physical symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Older people also focus more on the positive aspects of goods and services because they focus more on emotional goals than young adults.(See “What makes you Happy).

We are attracted to happy people because we think theye will give good genes to our children. Extraverts are happier than Introverts because they spend more time doing enjoyable things. But introverts who are asked to behave as extroverts can be even happier than real extroverts.

Happiness IS NOT associated with: wealth (once basic needs are met), education, high IQ, youth (20-24 year olds are more depressed than 65-74 year olds) or watching TV more than 3 hours a day – especially watching soaps.

But it IS associated with: religion (although it may be the community rather than the belief), having lots of friends, and drinking in moderation (compared to teetotallers).

We are not evolved to be happy all the time otherwise we would have nothing to strive for. However 50% of happiness may be due to our genes compared to les than 10% due to our circumstances. We may have a “set point” or range of happiness to which we return after experiencing ups and downs. So like the football example, winning the lottery may not make us happy forever.

According to ideas from positive psychology we can raise our happiness levels by enjoying life more eg by savouring sensual experiences, by becoming more involved in things, and by finding ways of making our lives more meaningful.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of “The How of Happiness: a practical guide to getting the life you want“, suggests the following  to raise your levels of happiness:

  • Count your blessings – keep a gratitude journal each week of 3-5 things
  • Practise being kind – both randomly and systematically
  • Savour life’s joys
  • Thank a mentor
  • Learn to forgive
  • Invest time and energy in friends and family – these are more important than work to your happiness.
  • Take care of your body and health
  • Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardship – having a strong belief system helps.