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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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.


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Are you flourishing?

Happiness is over-rated according to Martin Seligman, the grandfather of positive psychology. This might be a bit of a shock as his book “Authentic Happiness” was influential in persuading influential people that the government should start measuring happiness and well-being.

In his latest book “Flourish” he says he got it wrong promoting happiness as it was only concerned with life satisfaction and how cheerful you were. He thinks well-being is more meaningful as it is more measurable.

As it happens researchers at the Well-being Institute at Cambridge University have defined and measured flourishing across the EU. They found that Denmark leads Europe with 33% of its citizens flourishing, nearly twice as many as in the UK.

Denmark was previously recognised as having the most people satisfied with life in a 2006 Wikipedia survey (in which we came 41st out of 89 countries!)