A new survey by the Children’s Society concluded that British teenagers are the least happy in Europe. Having spent the last six months in the UK I’m guessing the coverage of the pandemic that we are dealing with has an impact on this conclusion.
Day after day we are bombarded with statistics detailing the number of deaths from Covid-19 and to be honest this daily dose of depressing news has impacted my own normally very positive approach to life. But this is not what is making our children depressed.
Although suffering badly this year from the Covid-19 virus in Spain 82 per cent of the teenagers surveyed were happy compared with only 64pc in the UK. The CEO of the Children’s Society thinks that child poverty is a key contributor to the feeling of misery amongst UK teenagers.
The figures don’t support the thoughts of the Children’s Society CEO and EU reports state that Spanish teenagers are more at risk from poverty compared with British teenagers. Let’s not forget that in Spain those younger than 25 years must deal with a youth unemployment rate of over 40pc compared with 12.7pc in the UK.
In comparison with other countries in the EU, Scotland had one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in Europe. Youth unemployment here in Scotland has consistently been below that in the rest of the UK in recent years so I guess unhappy Scottish teenagers are affected by other things.
Figures show that referrals to child and adolescent mental health services in Scotland fell by 57pc between April and June 2020 in comparison with the same period last year largely due to cuts in support during the pandemic. A spokesperson for Scottish Children’s Services Coalition said: “Latest figures are deeply troubling and point to a ‘perfect storm’ for our young people, with increased demand coupled with cuts in services.”
Back to the survey. The happiest teenagers were in the poorest parts of Europe and even in Romania which is the second worst in Europe for child poverty, they reported higher levels of happiness. So, if it is not poverty and unemployment that are making our teenagers depressed what can it be?
I’m guessing it could be to do with affluence and success and the part social media plays in this issue. As we all know the Internet is full of pictures that are shared showing teenagers having a good time. Time out with friends all having fun and eating lovely food in nice places at home and abroad pollute social media sites.
Could it be we have a generation of children who are depressed because they are bombarded with unattainable social experiences and aspirational purchases? I do not share photos online, but I can imagine that if I received dozens of photos from so called online friends all having a good time I would be depressed.
I guess we have a generation of young people who have their heads full of unrealistic expectations that they will never achieve. In poor countries in Europe the teenagers there have not fallen into the trap the teenagers in the richer countries have due in part to the nonsense pumped out on social media.
What have we allowed to happen? Are photographs on social media contributing to a generation of young people who grow up to be angry adults who believe the system has let them down?
Only time will tell.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at email@example.com