Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Young People and Happiness

MTV and The Associated Press have released results of an in-depth study of people age 13-24 regarding happiness. Demographically speaking, this is part of Generation Y (born after 1976) and part of the younger generation. If you teach in a middle school, high school, or college, I would suggest perusing the entire summary.

Some of the findings are relevant to spirituality and the workplace. Here is the summary of spirituality and religion findings (bold for emphasis is mine):

3) Religion and Spirituality - Religion and spirituality are an integral part of happiness for most American young people. 44 percent say that religion and spirituality are either a very important or the single most important thing in their lives, with more than one in ten reporting the latter. And those for whom religion and spirituality play a bigger role in life tend to be happier. 80 percent of those who say spirituality is the most important thing in life say they are happy with life in general, compared with 60 percent of those who say that spirituality is not an important part of life at all.

Wow. I think that figure of 44% is extremely high. I wonder how they are conceptualizing spirituality and if these are churched or unchurched folks. And now let's look a bit at their goals in the workplace

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4) Fortune and Fame - Money and its relationship to the happiness of young people is a complicated issue. Almost no respondents mentioned anything financial or material as a source of happiness when asked an unaided question about what makes them happy. But many young people report financial woes as a source of unhappiness. In looking to the future, 70 percent say they want to be rich - and nearly half think it's at least somewhat likely they will be someday - but just 29 percent want to be famous. Only 17 percent think they will be famous.


One of the fascinating thoughts expressed when I work with young people is this dream of being rich (and to a lesser extent famous). Considering the odds of that happening, I wonder what the future work landscape looks like for them. It does look like they understand the connection between financial woes (debt? unemployment? poverty wages?) and unhappiness.