London: Young people are happier and healthier than their counterparts a decade ago as the so-called 'Facebook generation' is more physically active and less likely to drink or be bullied, according to a new study.
The study sheds new light on the habits and happiness of 11 to 15 year-olds in over 40 different countries across a 16 year period (1994-2010).
The study coordinated internationally by the University of St Andrews in the UK found that contemporary adolescents are in a better position than past generations.
Over the last decade an increasing proportion of adolescents eat fruit and vegetables, are physically active on a daily basis, keep their teeth clean, did not suffer from injury, rate their health as excellent, practice safe sex, and find it easy to talk to their parents about things that matter to them.
Researchers observed a decline in young people experiencing bullying, drinking alcohol weekly, and increasing numbers living free from tobacco and cannabis.
Yet, despite this general trend towards healthier eating and healthy lifestyles, the research also found that obesity rates either increased or remained stable at already high levels, between 2002 and 2010.
The report, published by The European Journal of Public Health, studied 20 papers from researchers taking part in the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study, a cross-national collaboration with the WHO.
It is the only study of its kind in Europe and North America and provides insights into the social determinants of young people's health and well-being.
The researchers behind the report warned that despite the generally positive findings, many - if not the majority - of adolescents living in Europe and North America, still do not meet the recommendations for healthy living.
In the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Russia, Scotland, Slovenia, Switzerland and US, fewer young people were physically active on a daily basis in 2010 than 2002.
The report suggests that while the overall optimistic picture seems surprising considering that many countries faced a severe economic crisis in the last decade, policies and actions to improve public health were implemented in many countries in the same period.
It also concludes that the general feeling that young people are better off today could also be attributed to changes in fashions, behavioural norms and societal values.