Checkup: What Makes Teens Happy
Everybody wants to be happy. That includes, of course, teenagers, whose happiness often derives from the sorts of behaviors that make their parents unhappy.
But a new study out of England found something that will have parents of teens nodding knowingly. Cara Booker, a senior research officer at the University of Essex, looked at data from a long-running research project called Understanding Society, that included responses from more than 5000 British teenagers about their lifestyles, and about how happy they are.
"And basically what we found is that the youth who had more healthy behaviors -- those who didnít smoke, those who didnít drink, those who ate better, i.e. those who ate more fruits and vegetables and less junk food, and those who exercised more per week were happier than those who Ö had poorer health-related behaviors."
Not a huge surprise, right? Healthier lifestyle choices make kids feel better, which in turn makes them happier. But it may not be quite that simple. After all, there are always complicating background factors at play.
"Is it that those youth who participate more in sports have a better social life so theyíre happier, or is it that those youth who eat more fruits and vegetables have parents who actually buy it for them so they have a happier home life and so theyíre happier?"
So, to be clear, feeding teenagers vegetables and signing them up for soccer in no way guarantees a happy outcome. But it might push things in that direction. At the end of the day, Booker says, the best way to make kids happy is by setting a good example.
"Thatís a big thing. In adolescence exercise tends to go way down and just a little bit of exercise more per week actually had a really big effect on happiness. So just going out and throwing a ball with them or running around the park for 30 minutes a day I think itís something that will have a big effect."
Iím Jeremy Shere.