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Grateful Teens Face Less Risk for Mental Health Problems

Update Date: Aug 05, 2012 01:03 PM EDT
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Teens often times forget how fortunate they are for having simple things and now a new study is suggesting that teens who are grateful can improve their mental health and as gratitude increases, so do life satisfaction, happiness, positive attitudes, hope and even academic performance.

The conclusions have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, so they are preliminary and will be presented on Sunday at the American Psychological Association annual meeting.

Over five years, researchers questioned 700 students between 10 and 14 years old. Sixty-seven percent of the students were white, 11 percent were Asian American, 10 percent were black, 1.4 percent were Hispanic and about 11 percent were other ethnicities or did not identify their race. 

Socioeconomic factors and parental educational attainment, but not religious beliefs were taken into account. 

Giacomo Bono, study author said based on the results, it appears that teens are preoccupied with other things and cannot find time to be appreciative of their friendships, activities they enjoy or even the food on the table.

However, according to Bono, teens who do find the time to be grateful were more creative, cooperative, persistent and had a sense of purpose. 

"Gratefulness allows us to understand what matters most to us and translate that to a broader goal," said Bono. 

According to the authors, grateful teens had a disposition and moods that allowed that to have a positive attitude to the good things and people in their lives. 

Based on the questionnaires returned, teens who were the most grateful gained 15 percent more of a sense of meaning in their lives, became 15 percent more satisfied with their lives overall and became 17 percent more happy and hopeful about their lives. That group also had a 13 percent drop in negative emotions and a 15 percent decrease in symptoms of depression.

Researchers say there's a strong link between having a sense of satisfaction with life and feeling grateful and people who are grateful are more optimistic and hopeful, feeling they have the resources to be successful in their future. 

Researchers believe that socioeconomic status is not linked to gratefulness and one does not have to be rich to feel grateful. 

Expert say society isn't focused much on gratefulness and it is has become unusual to talk about it.  

They also noted that when kids are unable to identify the what they're grateful for, it as a danger sign of increased risk of severe depression and suicide. 

Bono suggested parents start paying attention to their own sense of gratefulness talk about what they are grateful for, and ask the kids what they appreciate. 

"Talking about gratitude helps guide us all to the things that matter most," he said.

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