Being a 'happy' teenager is linked to increased well-being in adulthood, new research finds.
Much is known about the associations between a troubled childhood and mental health problems, but little research has examined the affect of a positive childhood. For the first time, researchers from the University of Cambridge and the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing have analysed the link between a positive adolescence and well-being in midlife.
Using information from 2776 individuals who participated in the 1946 British birth cohort study, the scientists tested associations between having a positive childhood and well-being in adulthood.
A 'positive' childhood was based on teacher evaluations of students' levels of happiness, friendship and energy at the ages of 13 and 15. A student was given a positive point for each of the following four items - whether the child was 'very popular with other children', 'unusually happy and contented', 'makes friends extremely easily' and 'extremely energetic, never tired'. Teachers also rated conduct problems (restlessness, daydreaming, disobedience, lying, etc) and emotional problems (anxiety, fearfulness, diffidence, avoidance of attention, etc).
The researchers then linked these ratings to the individuals' mental health, work experience, relationships and social activities several decades later. They found that teenagers rated positively by their teachers were significantly more likely than those who received no positive ratings to have higher levels of well-being later in life, including a higher work satisfaction, more frequent contact with family and friends, and more regular engagement in social and leisure activities.
Happy children were also much less likely than others to develop mental disorders throughout their lives - 60% less likely than young teens that had no positive ratings.