teen couple youngThe Center for Strategic and International Studies, along with the International Youth Foundation, recently came out with a report where countries were ranked according to the “Global Youth Well-being Index“. Out of 30 countries, the United States came in sixth, topped by Australia, Sweden, South Korea, the U.K., and Germany.

What does this mean? As usual, it depends on how you look at the data. There are certainly more than 30 countries in the world; our neighbor Canada is missing, and only five European countries are considered. Some nations listed in the survey- like Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya- are developing nations where parts of the population struggle for things we take for granted (usually), like clean water.

The rankings are based on six areas of youth health, and I wanted to comment on the U.S. and how we scored on specific measures.

Citizen participation. We scored really poorly on this measure, which takes into account concepts like democracy, youth participation in government and volunteer efforts, and youth’s perception of feeling valued by government and society. We scored 21st out of 30 countries, which to me is akin to a failing grade. The report states part of that poor score is a lack of youth policies, and U.S. youth feeling undervalued.

Economic opportunity. We’re number one! This is based on GDP, economic climate, youth unemployment and job expectations, and entrepreneurship. I actually found this heartening, considering the recent recession and the dearth of adolescent employment opportunities. However, the report points out that despite the high score, U.S. youth have a pessimistic economic outlook.

Education. The U.S. came in at number 3 for education, which takes into account school enrollment, educational spending, and “educational satisfaction”.

Health. We scored twelfth in this field, which surprised me, since some of the parameters are clean water, life expectancy, and HIV rate. However, others like teen births, self-harm, and prioritization of healthy eating and living, are pulling our score down. Vietnam and Jordan, classified as developing nations, scored higher than the U.S. on health measures. The report points out that U.S. youth scored poorly on measures of stress, self-harm, and smoking.

Information and Communication Technologies. This basically equates to how “wired” youth are. We scored third, with South Korea taking home the blue ribbon.

Safety and Security. The U.S. came in eighth for this measure, which takes into account overall peace, trafficking, disasters, interpersonal violence, traffic safety, and youth feelings of safety. All the top scoring nations here were developed countries, with Europe, Japan, and Australia having higher safety ratings.

I can think of ways we can improve these some of these measures for our teens, but I want to know what you think! How can we improve our youths’ health, safety, and security? What do we need to do to maintain our high scores in economic opportunities and education?