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  • Writer's pictureTracey Camilleri

The World Happiness Report (.....the young are not happy)


The World Happiness Report is out for 2024..  It presents an annual pulse check of 140 countries,  edited by our colleague at Oxford Said Business School, Jan-Emmanuel de Neve - and it makes ch

allenging reading.  In short, young people in the US, UK and Western Europe are becoming sadder.  The under 30’s in the US were ranked 62nd happiest by their own assessment:  British people under 30 ranked 32nd.  

 

The report doesn’t track the causes of this decline in wellbeing but it gives some hints.

 

“Both social support and loneliness affect happiness, with social support usually having the larger effect. Social interactions of all kinds also add to happiness, in addition to their effects flowing through increases in social support and reductions in loneliness.”

World Happiness Report 2024

 

The US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an Advisory last year in response to ‘our epidemic of loneliness and isolation”.  His prescription was to “prioritize building social connection in the same way we have prioritised other critical health issues such as tobacco, obesity and substance use disorders.”  

 

Our work has led us to understand this need for a focus on social health.  The atomising effects of the digital mediation of human connection at work, at school and at home and the focus on the individual rather than the group in terms of  interventions and support leave many people stranded.

 

There may also be something going on here that relates to scale.  “The top countries no longer include any of the largest countries.  In the top ten countries, only the Netherlands and Australia have populations over 15 million”.  Evolutionary psychologist (and our co-author) Robin Dunbar shows that human beings are happiest in small groups where they are known, there is a sense of mutual obligation and relationship.

 

When we researched our book, The Social Brain - The Psychology of Successful Groups we interviewed the great historian Theodore Zeldin.  He ended our conversation by asking us simply “Can we not have more experiments to offer something better to young people?  Isn’t this the ultimate purpose of organisations?”  It’s a question raised again by this report and one that governments,  educators and employers need to revisit.

 

We’d be really interested in hearing about successful social strategies or interventions that have had a positive effect on social health.


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