The Grapevine

Children's Health: The Countries Where Children Are Happiest With Friends, Family, And School

happy child
Children are generally happy worldwide, but they're more likely to be happy with their friendships in Europe and more likely to be happy with their school lives in Africa. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

A new survey out of Goethe University in Frankfurt examined over 50,000 children between the ages of 8 and 12 in 15 different countries, in an attempt to decipher their happiness levels based on where they live.

The survey asked children how they’d rate their family and home life, friendships, possessions, school life, local area, use of time, and personal well-being. The researchers found that children in European countries were more happy with their friendships than children in other countries; yet, interestingly, children in Africa were happier with their school lives. Overall, children rated their happiness levels positively; but those who rated it 10 out of 10 were more likely to live in Turkey (at 78 percent) and Romania (77 percent) than in South Korea (40 percent). 

Based on this research, it seems that children living in Norway are the most savvy about children’s rights — as 77 percent of them stated that they know what rights children have, compared to only 36 percent in England. In addition, 84 percent of children in Norway said that adults generally respected their rights, compared to less than 50 percent in seven countries.

The authors believe that learning more about how children view themselves and their own happiness in their respective countries could help improve children’s rights and health across the world. “This report is the culmination of many years of work to understand more about children’s views about their lives and well-being,” Professor Asher Ben-Arieh, an author of the study and co-chair of the International Society of Child Indicators, said in the press release. “[It’s] possible and valuable to ask children how they feel about their lives and that different children from different places share a common childhood.”

He added: “The report contains important messages for policy makers, practitioners, parents, and all those concerned with improving children’s quality of life.”

It’s difficult to gauge happiness in a population, but past studies have shown that Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway typically place first when it comes to happiest countries in the world. The same holds true for children’s happiness: a recent UNICEF report ranked countries based on their level of child well-being, and found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that Northern European and Scandinavian countries made it to the top. The Netherlands was number one, followed by Norway, Iceland, Finland, and Sweden. So with high levels of children's rights awareness, and happiness, among kids, Norway might be the unofficial children's capital of the world.

The research will be presented at the European Parliament in Brussels.

“We are delighted to see the first report from this major new international study,” Simon Sommer, head of research at the Jacobs Foundation, which funded the report, said in the press release. “The foundation is proud of being part of making complex research more accessible and to be one step closer to a better understand of children’s lives from their own perspectives. With innovative research projects such as this we would like to strengthen the transfer of research into practice and provide information that is valuable for political decision makers and others to improve children’s lives.”

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