American Kids Are Slightly Happier Than Kids in Several Other Countries

December 10, 2012

Compared to kids in 11 other countries, American children are slightly happier than average, details The Marketing Store Worldwide (TMSW) in a new study. Looking at measures of happiness among 4,000 children aged 6-12 across 12 countries (US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, China, Australia) and aggregating the responses to create a happiness index, the study finds American kids to be a little happier (index score of 104) than the global average, though they are not as happy as children in Mexico (118), Spain (114), Brazil (109), and Germany (105).

To arrive at its index, the study analyzed responses to a series of 9 measures that reflect key aspects or drivers of happiness, such as stress levels, positive perceptions of the world, closeness to family, and frequency of feeling happy. With an index score of just 82, kids in Poland ranked as the least happy of the 12 countries measured. Japanese kids (84) were not much happier.

Within the US, African-American kids were most likely to say they’re happy “all the time,” with 45% saying this is the case. Asian-American (35%) and Hispanic (32%) children were next, with Caucasian kids (22%) least likely to say they are always happy. Across the total global sample, 24% of the kids surveyed said they were always happy, while a majority 66% said they were happy most of the time.

Stress Levels Increase With Age

Further details from the “Global Kids Happiness Index” reveal that kids appear to get more jaded and unhappy as they age. While just 9% of 6-year-olds said they feel very stressed out (top box), that increased steadily to 20% among 12-year-olds. Similarly, while 58% of 6-year-olds said they strongly believe the world is “a good place,” that percentage dropped to 41% among 12-year-olds. Finally, while 76% of 6-year-olds said they’re happy most of the time, that figure decreased to 62% among 12-year-olds.

The report recommends that marketers understand that generally speaking, kids do not want to be older. As a result, brands should “give kids the opportunity to stay younger longer by encouraging activities that allow them to be (and act) their age.”

Families Bring Joy

Across the globe, families and family time counted as the most frequently cited source of happiness, with the lone exception being Japan, where playing and video games were top of mind. After family bonds, friends and play ranked as the #2 and #3 drivers of happiness for kids. Some cultural differences emerged: for example, competition and accomplishments were important to Chinese kids, but unimportant to American kids.

The study suggests that marketers not only perceive kids to be generally happy, but that they also focus on engaging them by contributing to their drivers of happiness.

Other Findings:

  • 82% of kids across the studied countries strongly agree that they are close to their family, and 65% strongly agree that they have very good friends. Kids in the Latin and Spanish countries were above-average in their closeness to their families, leading to their higher overall happiness index scores. Interestingly, an Ipsos study from February found that on a regional basis, Latin America had the highest proportion (32%) of adults saying they are very happy.
  • Roughly 2 in 3 kids surveyed said they are sometimes stressed out, with Japanese and German kids the most likely to feel stressed.
  • Almost all mothers believe their kids are happy at least most of the time. Still, 84% say their kids are growing up too fast, and 59% see childhood as being more difficult today than when they were kids.
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