In today’s world, adolescents are confronted with a profound sense of turmoil as they navigate the transition to adulthood, a stark departure from their historical role as beacons of optimism. The latest World Happiness Report reveals a disconcerting reality: young people worldwide report lower levels of happiness compared to their elders.

From 2006 onward, there has been a decline in reported levels of youth happiness across North America, South America, Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa regions. This trend, spanning continents and economic backgrounds, is entrenched with a multitude of challenges including economic hurdles, social and technological pressures, and pervasive uncertainty.

Impediments In Having A Happier Youth Globally

Here are the challenges that the young generation faces in today’s world-

  1. Economic Challenges

Young people face a multitude of economic hurdles that impede their sense of financial security and overall well-being. The rising costs of essential needs such as housing, education, and healthcare create substantial barriers to prosperity.

For instance, housing affordability has become increasingly out of reach for many young adults, leading to prolonged periods of renting or living with family. This trend extends beyond Western regions; a 2022 World Bank report revealed that increasing housing expenses pose significant challenges for young adults in developing economies such as Brazil and India.

Additionally, the burden of student loan debt weighs heavily on graduates, often delaying major life milestones such as homeownership and starting a family.

Stagnant wages exacerbate these challenges, making it difficult for young people to achieve financial independence and stability. The gig economy and precarious work arrangements offer limited job security and benefits compared to traditional career paths, further adding to financial stress and anxiety about the future.

According to a 2023 report from the International Labour Organization, youth unemployment rates persist at high levels in developed nations and are even more severe in developing countries.

2. Social and Technological Pressures

The pervasive influence of social media in today’s society has both positive and negative impacts on the well-being of young people. While it provides a platform for connectivity and self-expression, it also fosters feelings of inadequacy and loneliness.

A 2022 study found a strong correlation between increased social media use and symptoms of depression and loneliness among young adults which has become a global trend. The constant exposure to curated and often unrealistic portrayals of others’ lives on social media platforms can contribute to feelings of social comparison and inferiority. 

Moreover, social isolation has become a prevalent issue among young people, stemming from factors such as decreased leisure time, geographical mobility, and social anxieties. Despite the ability to connect virtually, many young individuals lack meaningful, in-person relationships, leading to a sense of disconnection and unhappiness.

Also Read: Is Religion Better At Solving The Mental Health Crisis In Indian Youth?

3. Uncertainty and Anxiety

Young people today grapple with a myriad of global challenges that instil feelings of uncertainty and anxiety about the future. Climate change, in particular, looms large as a pressing existential threat that disproportionately affects younger generations.

The prospect of inheriting a world beset by environmental crises can evoke a sense of powerlessness and existential dread among young people, who may feel ill-equipped to address these complex issues. 

Additionally, political polarization and societal divisions further contribute to feelings of anxiety and hopelessness. Constant exposure to negative news and divisive rhetoric can be emotionally draining, particularly for young individuals growing up in conflict-ridden regions.

A 2023 UNICEF report found young people in conflict zones around the world, like Syria and Yemen, report particularly high levels of anxiety and depression.  The prevalence of anxiety and depression among young people in such areas highlights the urgent need for targeted interventions and support systems to address their mental health needs.

The findings of the report highlight a significant geographical and inequality divide in happiness levels. In nations like Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, the UK, and Spain, older generations report higher levels of happiness compared to younger individuals, whereas Portugal and Greece exhibit the opposite trend.

Additionally, across North America, young people are notably less content than their older counterparts. Furthermore, inequality in happiness has escalated in every region except Europe, indicating a potentially historic and concerning shift in happiness dynamics. The report notes: “To think that in some parts of the world, children are already experiencing the equivalent of a midlife crisis demands immediate policy action.” As happiness diminishes, so too do motivation, productivity, health, and life expectancy.

Despite the concerning trends, the World Happiness Report also offers glimmers of hope, pointing towards strategies for fostering happiness among young people. Countries like Costa Rica and Kuwait have seen increased happiness among youth, suggesting that prioritizing social support and a sense of purpose may be key.

To counteract this trend, it’s imperative to explore effective strategies aimed at reducing youth discontent and fostering their overall happiness and resilience.

By prioritizing mental health support, promoting real-world connections, advocating for social media reform, and championing holistic education, we can empower young individuals to navigate the challenges of modern life with confidence and well-being. 

Key Strategies To Have A Happier Youth

Here are some key strategies that can have a potential impact on enhancing the happiness and fulfilment of today’s youth.

  1. Prioritize Global Mental Health Support

Investing in accessible and comprehensive mental health services tailored to the needs of young people is crucial. Schools and communities should implement early intervention programs that address the negative effects of stressors like social media and economic pressures.

For example, mindfulness training has shown promise in helping young individuals manage anxiety and depression. Group therapy sessions can provide a supportive environment for discussing and coping with mental health challenges.

Additionally, creating online resources and helplines specifically catered to youth mental health concerns can ensure wider accessibility to support services.

  1. Foster Real-World Connections Across Cultures

Promoting genuine social interaction and a sense of belonging among young people can be achieved through various initiatives.

International exchange programs offer opportunities for young individuals from different countries to live and learn together, fostering understanding and lifelong friendships.

Virtual youth mentorship initiatives can connect young people with experienced professionals who can offer guidance and support, providing valuable insights and perspective.

Moreover, global online communities focused on shared interests, such as environmental activism or creative pursuits, can provide a sense of community and purpose.

  1. Push for Social Media Reform

Social media companies and governments have a shared responsibility to prioritize user well-being. Implementing stricter content regulations and policies that limit the spread of negativity and misinformation is crucial.

For example, platforms can explore features that promote healthy usage habits, such as limiting screen time or providing tools for managing online interactions. Age verification requirements for certain types of content can also help protect young users from harmful or inappropriate material.

International cooperation is essential to ensure that these reforms are implemented effectively across borders, creating a safer and more positive online environment for young people globally.

  1. Champion Education for the Future

Schools play a critical role in equipping young people with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate challenges effectively.

Beyond traditional academics, educational institutions should prioritize teaching life skills that are relevant to modern society. For instance, financial literacy workshops can empower young individuals to make informed decisions about budgeting, saving, and managing debt.

Moreover, educating students about healthy online habits and digital citizenship can promote responsible and safe social media usage. By incorporating these topics into the curriculum, schools can empower young people to thrive in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

The 2024 World Happiness Report highlights the urgent need to address the declining happiness levels among young people worldwide.

By acknowledging and tackling the multifaceted reasons behind this trend, from economic challenges to social pressures, we can pave the way for a brighter future.

By collaboratively prioritizing mental health support, nurturing genuine connections, improving social media practices, and advocating for comprehensive education, we can create an enriched environment for today’s youth, guaranteeing their well-being and fortitude for the future.

Feature image designed by Saudamini Seth

Sources: World Economic Forum, The Print, Deccan Herald

Find the blogger: Katyayani Joshi

This post is tagged under: World Happiness Report, happiness, unhappiness, youth, young people, social anxiety, climate change, unemployment, social pressure, technological pressures, anxiety, education, social circles, community, empowerment, social media, online resources

Disclaimer: We do not hold any right, copyright over any of the images used, these have been taken from Google. In case of credits or removal, the owner may kindly mail us.

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