In 2013, Unicef completed a health report as they examined the world’s richest countries and the health of those country’s citizens.
Now, I was aware, as I am sure most everyone else is, that the United States is experiencing an obesity problem nationwide, but especially among the nation’s children. Also, I am sure many of you have heard the terrifying statistic that has been repeated again and again, that this generation may the be the first in our nation’s history that will not live longer than their parents.
Pretty scary stuff, I’ll admit. But upon reading this study, my fears were taken to a whole new level.
The 2013 Unicef study was entitled “Child Well-Being in Rich Countries”. Now all in all, there were 29 countries included in this study. Take a second and make a guess as to where the United States fell on the list of countries in being the best for children’s health. My guess was around 8th.
It’s really 26. 26 out of 29. We are only in front of Lithuania, Latvia and Romania.
Ouch. You hear facts like this generation not living as long as their parent’s generation, but when you see it laid out like this, it really puts it into perspective.
But the report was not without good news for the United States. Out of all the countries in the study, the US has among the lowest air pollution rates, the lowest rates on children drinking and smoking regularly, and the among the highest when it comes to children exercising daily. Ahh, but the bad greatly outshines the good in this case.
The United States, who was once looked at as the model for children’s education, now only falls in the middle of the pack. Among these high school aged youth, we have the highest rate of teens having children. We rank 25th on the list of 29 countries for teens 15-19 being enrolled in high schools and colleges. We are also 23rd when it comes to individuals within this age bracket NOT participating in education, employment or training. Although we were among the most likely to exercise, we were also the most likely to be overweight.
We have the SECOND HIGHEST amount of children living below the poverty line.
However, when the study turned and asked the children involved how THEY felt about certain areas of their life, the answers got a whole lot worse. When children were asked to rank their life satisfaction, we placed only in the bottom third. When ask to rate the quality of their relationships, we came out second to last. When taking a look at these relationships with their family and peers, 73% found it “easy to talk to” their mothers and only 59% found it “easy to talk to” their fathers. Only 56% of children found their peers to be “friendly and helpful”. Putting all of these statistics Unicef found together, we were among the worst, if not the worst, in the study.
As Charles Blow, from the New York Times states, “We hear so much about what we’re leaving behind for future generations, but not nearly enough about how we are failing them today. It is a failure of parenting, a failure of society, a failure of politicians. We need smart and courageous parenting, as well as policies that invest time and money, love and understanding in our children.”
We need more happy, healthy American children! This fall, make a pledge to get yourself and the ones you love healthy, and happiness is sure to follow.