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Insight

Why are British teenagers so unhappy?

Mark Bowman
24/04/2017
In a stark report following a survey of half a million 15-year-olds, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found that British teenagers are more anxious, more likely to be bullied and less satisfied with life than other teenagers in the rest of the world.

At a time when members of the royal family are being commendably, and unusually, outspoken about the issue of mental health, it appears that the pressure on teenagers in the classroom is raising anxiety levels to unacceptable levels.

Pressure to succeed

Even if they are well prepared, 81 per cent of girls and 63 per cent of boys said they felt anxious before a test, perhaps linked to the uneasy truth that 90 per cent of UK pupils said they wanted to be the best. The average global score is 65 per cent.

Perhaps this pressure to succeed and to succeed high is the reason behind only 28 per cent saying they are very satisfied with life, dropping to 23 per cent of girls, against an average of 34 per cent worldwide.

Even worse, the UK has the fourth worst record of 34 countries for bullying, with almost a quarter of the British pupils surveyed saying they were bullied a couple of times a month, with more than 14 per cent saying bullying was frequent, with disadvantaged teenagers faring the worst. Whatever happened to your schooldays being the best days of your life?

Disturbing reading

This report makes extremely disturbing reading, particularly set against key trends from the Samaritans Statistic Report 2017 that in England and the UK, female suicide rates are at their highest in a decade.

An important element of the survey is that UK students are the second highest users of the internet when it comes to hours spent online.

The endless possibilities for social media to create a platform for unhappiness – from outright bullying to feeling left out, less attractive or simply lonely must have a seriously worrying impact on wellbeing. The link between internet use and unhappiness, particularly for teenagers, is research waiting to happen.

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