Advances in Mental Health, Vol 12, No 2 (2014)

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Looking on the bright side: an assessment of factors that are associated with adolescents’ happiness.

Michelle Lambert, Teresa Fleming, Shanthi Ameratunga, Elizabeth Robinson, Sue Crengle, Janie Sheridan, Simon Denny, Terryann Clark, Sally Merry


Background: To determine possible factors which may be associated with happiness among New Zealand adolescents.

Method: Data were from the Youth’07 Adolescent Health and Wellbeing survey of 9,107 secondary school students. Happiness was measured using the WHO wellbeing index. To determine the validity of this measure, correlations were undertaken with a general life satisfaction item, a general mood item and the Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale SF. We hypothesized protective factors for happiness included family, school and peer connection, as well as  family meals, exercise and belonging to a cultural group. Using questions from the survey we developed scales measuring family, school and peer connection, and used individual items about family meals, exercise and belonging to a cultural group. Hypothesized risk factors for happiness included frequent alcohol and marijuana use; experience of sexual abuse, violence, a long term health condition and ethnic discrimination. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, Pearson's correlation coefficient and regression.

Results: Happiness was positively associated with good connections with family, friends and school, regular exercise and meals with family. Happiness was negatively associated with witnessing yelling and hitting of children and adults at home, discrimination, frequent marijuana use, sexual abuse, frequent alcohol use and having a long term health condition.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates the importance of caring relationships with parents, schools and community for happiness among adolescents. Future strategies to improve adolescent wellbeing must take an ecological approach; acknowledging that family school and community contexts are important for happiness among young people.

Advances in Mental Health

ISSN 1837-4905
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