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Healthy teens are happy teens

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INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Teenagers who smoke, drink alcohol and eat junk food are significantly more likely to be unhappy than their clean- living counterparts, a study has found.

London - Teenagers who smoke, drink alcohol and eat junk food are significantly more likely to be unhappy than their clean- living counterparts, a study has found.

About 5,000 children were questioned on their appearance, family, friends, school and life as a whole, and had their happiness levels rated. Researchers discovered that those who never drank alcohol were between four and six times more likely to have higher levels of happiness than those who did, while those who shunned cigarettes were about five times more likely to have high happiness scores than young smokers.

The authors of the study, based at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University, used data from Understanding Society, a long-term study of 40,000 UK households, to analyse the home life and health-related behaviour of about 5,000 ten to 15-year-olds.

Their results found that unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol and not taking exercise were closely linked to substantially lower happiness scores, even when factors such as family income and parents’ education were taken into account.

Higher consumption of fruit and vegetables, and less eating of crisps, sweets and fizzy drinks, were associated with high happiness levels. Also, the children who played a lot of sport were deemed happier.

Dr Cara Booker, co-author of the research, said that children could be turning to damaging vices to cope with their unhappiness. She said: “Another explanation could be that youths who smoke and drink first fit themselves into certain groups that tend to be unhappier, and then they find themselves unhappy. It becomes a vicious cycle.

“It’s probably a combination of both. Some will take up smoking because they want to feel more adult, but then find themselves hanging out with people who are less happy and then they become less happy.

“But if you’re participating in sports and have a social group who are also interested in the same things, you’re happier versus not doing much of anything.”

The study found that between the ages of 13 and 15, teenagers’ food consumption became unhealthier - only 11 percent reported eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day - and their participation in exercise fell. And the figures for alcohol consumption revealed 8 per cent of ten to 12-year-olds admitted having had an alcoholic drink within the last month, rising to 41 percent among 13 to 15-year-olds.

Dr Booker added: “The message [to teenagers] is that you need to be as healthy as possible, and participating in more adult behaviour such as smoking and drinking is not necessarily going to make you happier.” - Daily Mail

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