Page last updated at 06:41 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 07:41 UK

Scots children happiest on record

Eleanor Bradford
BBC Scotland health correspondent

Laughing girls
The survey said schoolchildren were happier than before

Scottish children aged 11-15 are happier than ever before, according to a new survey.

Research by Edinburgh University and Health Scotland suggests youngsters are happier than any time since 1994 when the survey was first carried out.

Experts hope this is a good indicator for the future.

However, the research found that children with emotional and mental health problems were more likely to smoke, drink and be violent.

It also said mental health problems during childhood and adolescence may persist into adulthood.

Despite regular headlines about gang culture, binge drinking and bullying, the latest Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey found 84% of youngsters were "highly satisfied" with their life and 49% were "very happy".

Some encouraging trends are shown in this survey though other behaviours and attitudes remain challenging
David Gordon
Health Scotland

A total of 36% never felt helpless and 20% always felt confident.

Happiness and confidence has increased since it was first measured in 14 years ago, and is now at its highest ever level.

That will be encouraging for public health experts and politicians alike.

Governments have succeeded in delivering greater and greater wealth but that has not translated into extra happiness.

In fact, the research suggested that the richer a society becomes, the less happy its citizens are.

In the past, Conservative leader David Cameron and former Prime Minister Tony Blair have both recognised the need to improve people's happiness, not just make them wealthier.

The report suggested the next generation may feel better about themselves and life in general.

'Unique opportunity'

Boys and girls also reported themselves better looking than previous generations - 36% of boys and 26% of girls said they were "good looking" - about 7% more than in 1998.

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What's so funny? Pupils explain their happiness

Boys consistently reported themselves to be better looking than girls.

David Gordon, head of the public health observatory division at Health Scotland, said: "It is vital that we monitor the health behaviours of Scotland's young people in their wider social context.

"Some encouraging trends are shown in this survey though other behaviours and attitudes remain challenging.

"By understanding what shapes young people's health we can better develop opportunities for all young people to flourish."

Prof Candace Currie said: "Scotland has participated in HBSC - a WHO collaborative study - for two decades, giving us a unique opportunity to track key areas of health among young people.

"This is an international study and Scotland is one of 43 countries now taking part.

"Previous HBSC surveys have flagged up that certain aspects of adolescent health in Scotland are less favourable than in other countries, including eating habits and emotional well-being. Therefore to see improvements in these is a very positive sign."




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Richer, healthier but not happier
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