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U.S. Teens Are Some of the Least Happy

The United States doesn't always come in first place. UNICEF surveyed 21 of the most developed nations and measured how kids related to other kids, spent time with parents, used alcohol and/or drugs, and perceived their own happiness. Tight-knit nations—like Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Finland—ranked the highest when it came to young people feeling secure and happy. The U.S. came in next to last, with the United Kingdom at the bottom of the list. UNICEF'S operating thesis was that "stable, supportive family and social relationships are far more important to kids' well being than how much expensive junk they have piled up in their rooms."

William Falk of The Week magazine editorialized on these findings:

It would be comforting to shrug off the report as pure anti-American bunkum. But as the parent of a teen and a tween, I cannot. I've seen firsthand the emptiness that haunts so many middle-class kids. From an early age, they are taught that life is a pitiless pursuit of individual gratification and success, requiring above-average brains and above-average looks. There is no sense of context, or community, or higher purpose. It's hardly surprising that so many of them are taking antidepressants, ADHD meds, or other pills. Many more hide their sadness in eating disorders, drugs, or meaningless hookups. In our rush to give our children everything, I'm afraid, we have forgotten to help them answer a question that won't be ignored: What is this all for?

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