Dutch Kids Are The Happiest In The World. And It's Obvious Why.

"The Dutch... are the most lenient and focus more on developing autonomy than giving priority to obedience – and that fits the society."

A recent study revealed that Dutch teens are the happiest in the world, building upon previous studies that found that Dutch kids also ranked highly in terms of personal happiness. A cross-national study known as the Health Behaviour of School-Aged Children  (HBSC) study surveyed 48 countries that represented nearly 7,000 teenagers. The survey asked a range of question about body image, life satisfaction, sexual behavior, and school environment. 

Out of the 48 countries, the U.S. was fairly low on the list for teen happiness. America has experienced an increase in depression and suicide rates, according to a report published by the Clinical Psychological Science. 

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So, what exactly makes Dutch teens happier and less anxious about life?

"I think Dutch children have generally positive interactions in all their social surroundings," Dr. Simone de Roos, a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Social Research, told The Guardian. "They have a supportive environment at home, with friends and also at school. Dutch parents give a lot of support and have mild control. There's an egalitarian climate, teachers are not authoritarian, but accept the feelings of pupils, and pupils trust teachers."

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The study also shows that Dutch teen's daily habits have a huge impact on their overall health. According to the report, Dutch teens are five 5 times more likely to eat breakfast during the week and have kinder classmates. 

Dutch teens are less likely to experience bullying and reported fewer rates of obesity. Prof Ruut Veenhoven, director of World Happiness Day, said that across Europe young people do not feel anxious to live up to high expectations. 

"If you look across Europe, the Dutch and the Danes are the most lenient and focus more on developing autonomy than giving priority to obedience – and that fits the society," Veenhoven told The Guardian. "Children are more free to do what they want, and in doing what they want, develop an idea of what they really like and social skills. A happy boy may be sometimes not a very good boy." 

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According to an article in The Telegraph discussing a UNICEF report with similar findings to the HBSC's, there are many more benefits to a Dutch childhood:  they have comparatively little homework in elementary school, experience regular family meals, and even get to sprinkle chocolate jimmies on their toast  in the mornings.

Dutch kids are also more likely to be educated than their parents, and grow up in one of the most peaceful countries in the world. Maybe it's time that the U.S. took a page out of The Netherland's playbook.

Cover image via Shutterstock / Daan Kloeg and  FamVeld / Shutterstock.

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