Why the Wel-Being of Youth is Vital for the future of the US

It is urgent for us to invest in youth. People intuitively know this to be true. This is also the conclusion of a study published by The Center for Strategic & International Studies in 2014 in partnership with the International Youth Foundation: The Global Youth Wellbeing Index. The well-being of today’s youth will impact the future of its country.

In other words, the future of our Country depends on the well-being of today’s youth. Our country has a better chance of being prosperous, economically thriving, stable, and inclusive with engaged citizens if our youth of today has a good index of well-being.

As young people grow and mature, they make choices that can nonetheless have heavy consequences on their adult health and life, but that will also affect the wellbeing of their future families, communities, and countries.

As adults, parents, and citizens, it is our duty to provide youth with opportunities to become healthy individuals who can become pillars of the innovation, energy and prosperity of their communities and nations.

In this global study, “well-being” is defined as “the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous.” Quality of life depends on people’s health, education, their everyday activities, their participation in the political process, their social and natural environment, and the factors that are shaping their personal and economic security.

In order to calculate a youth well-being index on 30 countries, the researchers compiled 40 indicators that address the overall national environment, youth-specific outcomes, and youths’ outlook and satisfaction levels across six interconnected aspects of their lives: citizen participation, economic opportunity, education, health, information and communications technology, and safety and security.

Globally, The United States ranks number 6 out of the 30 countries studied but ranks number 12 for youth health (behind Spain, Australia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Vietnam, Sweden, Japan, South Korea, Jordan, China): the levels of stress, self-harm, and smoking among youth are much higher than the average of the other countries.

“Health underpins every aspect of adolescent development: without health the transitions through education to employment, civic engagement and parenthood will fail.”

George Patton, 
Professor of adolescent health research, University of Melbourne.

Another point of the report is that youth are poorly armed to avoid risks, and overcome adversity, which will have a lifelong impact on their social, emotional, physical and economic development. Violence among youth can be negative to a whole country by creating a hostile environment, but also by increasing the costs for health care, welfare, criminal justice systems, and by reducing productivity.

We have a lot of work to do. Let’s not waste time.

I also believe that putting efforts and means in emotional and mental health care and prevention of youth and reforming education to enhance critical thinking is the way for our societies to ensure a future where people embrace fundamental values: respect and inclusion. If we had done a better job of taking care of past youth, there’s a great chance that Mr. Trump wouldn’t be president today, that the British wouldn’t have voted in favor of Brexit, and that Marine Le Pen would not be seen as likely to be in the second round of the French presidential election to come.

We know the solutions, we must give ourselves the means to act.

Youth voices matter:

  • Youth-inclusive societies are more likely to grow and prosper
  • Who knows youth better than youth? The Index highlights the need for closer attention to youth satisfaction and aspirations, increasing youth participation, and elevating youth voices.
  • Policies and programs aimed at serving young people or improving youth outcomes are more effective and impactful when designed in consultation with them.
  • Transparent and responsive institutions, supportive communities, and strong peer networks are necessary components in fostering youth capacity, creating opportunity, improving satisfaction and advancing overall youth well-being.