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Being Grateful for Things in Life Helps Teenagers Cut Risk of Depression

Update Date: Aug 07, 2012 08:39 AM EDT
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It is good to be grateful for what one has. Especially for teenagers, realizing what they have and being thankful for it, can help them develop a positive state of mental health altogether, a recent research says.    

The new study suggests that as gratitude increases, so does one's life satisfaction, happiness, positive attitudes, hope, and even academic performance.

According to study author Giacomo Bono, professor of Psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, teenagers these days do not have enough time for anything. Neither to appreciate their friendships, nor realize the things they are blessed with, or even be thankful for the food on the table. 

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

For the study, the researchers observed and quizzed 700 students living in New York, aged between 10 and 14.

The participants were of mixed races with 67 percent children being Whites and other races constituting the rest.  During the study, factors such as socioeconomic status and parental educational attainment were considered.

The author's definition of grateful teens was those teenagers who could positively respond to the good people and things in their lives.

The students were asked to answer questionnaires at the beginning of the study while they were in school and again, four years later.

When the results were compared between the least grateful and the most grateful, it was found that teens who were among the most grateful had a 15 percent higher sense of meaning in their lives, and were equally satisfied with their lives overall. They were also 17 percent happier and more hopeful about their lives, while having 13 percent lesser negative emotions and a 15 percent decrease in symptoms of depression when compared to those who were among the least grateful.

"People who are grateful are more optimistic and hopeful, feeling they have the resources to be successful in their future," said Bono.

According to Alec Miller, an expert working with teens, gratitude increases a teenager's sense of purpose in life.

 "I help kids become more aware of what they're grateful for, not just in treating depression, but in materialistic, busy, media-driven lives," he said.

It was also found that socioeconomic status does not play a role in gratefulness toward things in life.

"You don't have to be rich to feel grateful," said Bono. "We've found poor kids are very appreciative when other people help them out."

"I see Medicaid kids and children from wealthy homes in Westchester County, and I don't see any greater or lesser sense of gratitude from one group or another. It's fairly low in both groups," said Miller.

"Unfortunately, our society isn't focused much on gratefulness; it's become out of vogue to talk about it," he added. "But I give these researchers credit for reviving interest in the topic."

According to Miller, if a teenager does not find anything to be grateful about in life, that, he says, could be a sign of an increased risk of depression or suicide.

Having a sense of gratefulness during their teenage years could prevent the gradual erosion of self-esteem and build their sense of purpose and ability, he noted, according to the press release.

About how to invoke a sense of gratitude in their children, Bono suggested that parents should start paying attention to their own sense of gratefulness, which can be a model for their children.  

"Talk about what you're grateful for, and ask your kids what they appreciate," he said.

He also said that mentioning people who have helped them in life could help. 

Bono is expected to present his research Sunday at the American Psychological Association annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. and the data and conclusions of this study should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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