Monday, November 20, 2006

Young People in Developed Countries are the Most Unhappy

From Reuters:
Young people in developing nations are at least twice as likely to feel happy about their lives than their richer counterparts, a survey says.

Indians are the happiest overall and Japanese the most miserable.

According to an MTV Networks International (MTVNI) global survey that covered more than 5,400 young people in 14 countries, only 43 percent of the world's 16- to 34-year-olds say they are happy with their lives.

MTVNI said this figure was dragged down by young people in the developed world, including those in the United States and Britain where fewer than 30 percent of young people said they were happy with the way things were.

Only eight percent in Japan said they were happy.

Reasons for unhappiness across the developed world included a lack of optimism, concern over jobs and pressure to succeed.

In developing countries a majority in the same age group expected their lives to be more enjoyable in the future, led by China with 84 percent.

"The happier young people of the developing world are also the most religious," the survey said.

Religious people tend to have a realistic appreciation of the world and their place in it, as well as a sense of the reality of Providence. Thos without faith tend to see themselves as either (a) being on their own, or (b) helpless in the face of a capricious world. In either case, the world becomes a rather scary place.

[…] Young people from Argentina and South Africa came joint (sic) top in the list of how happy they were at 75 percent.

[...] "In developing countries, economic growth is on the go ... so you could see that logically there should be optimism and a positive feeling," Bill Roedy, the President of MTVNI, told Reuters.

For crying out loud! The American economy is booming! The Bush tax cuts pulled us out of a deep recession; unemployment is at an all-time low; the market is breaking records almost daily. Are the “youts” unhappy because no one is knocking on their dorm room doors to make them CEOs of Fortune 500 companies at the age of 21? Can anyone say “whiners?”

Developed countries were particularly pessimistic about globalization, with 95 percent of young Germans thinking it is ruining their culture, while developing countries which tended to be more receptive to globalization were also more optimistic about their economic future and more proud of their nationality.

MTVNI said one of the trends they spotted was that young people with access to mass media tended to feel less safe as they did not have the cognitive skills to interpret real risk.

In the UK, more than 80 percent of 16- to 34-year-olds said they were as afraid of terrorism as they were of the getting cancer - though the latter was far more likely to hurt them.

I think part of the problem is that young people in the West have little experience of the certainty of death. All young people tend to think they’re immortal; nowadays, many tend to believe they have a right to immortality, or at least to their three-score-and-ten. Most have grown up in a world of unprecedented safety, with little disease, little conflict, little daily hazard, and an unending stream of media images that imply The End is right around the corner. Reality, of course, is neither. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, but aren’t we fortunate that the probability is that we’ll see it? Most people in history had far less assurance than we do. Throughout most of history, one’s next illness might very well be one’s last, and the average man had to walk around armed for protection.

I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t help but think our privileged time is coming to an end. What are these pampered pets going to do when bullets start to fly? I hope most will rise to the occasion, but many are likely to come unglued.