A newly published study indicates today’s teens are significantly less happy than some of the predecessors and distributing it. But the correlation appears more powerful compared to causation.
The details include the Monitoring the Future Study, that surveyed over a million teens in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades (the college years Americans generally turn 14, 16 and 18 respectively.) Gizmodo notes precisely the same survey was run regularly since the 1990s plus a variant simply covering the 12th graders dates back to 1976.
The headline figure is a simple average of the participants’ self-reported happiness score of three for ” very happy”, two for “fairly happy” and one for “not too content.” The average score then began falling, albeit by a really small proportion and rose till 2012 for each year of the analysis.
The study authors indicated the explanation is a dramatic rise in ownership among teens since 2012, moving to effectively the standard from a luxury. They say that they broke down the characters depending on the manner respondents stated they split their time between “new screen media” such as telephone users, “old screen media” (in consequence, TV and movie viewing) and also “non-screen actions” such as sports and interacting.
Generally, the more the balance was in favour of non-screen tasks, the greater the self-reported “happiness” scores, in addition to other steps such as self-esteem. That did have a limit with the significance becoming poorer when you got to adolescents who spent no time on displays. (And lets be honest, if you are a teen today who does not use a phone or watch TV, you are probably going to be unhappy about it)
As always in such situations, correlation does not necessarily prove causation. Indeed the logic may be back to front and rather it may be that teens who have high self-esteem and are happy are inherently more likely to have a social life and find sports rewarding.