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14th Aug 2022

Feature

Paradox: Nordics' privileged youth feel miserable

  • Mogens Jensen, Danish minister for Nordic co-operation presenting The State of the Nordic Region 2020 annual report (Photo: EUobserver)

Young people in the Nordic countries are among the most privileged in the world - yet many of them feel miserable.

This is such a paradox, that the Nordic countries are now going to look into the phenomena and try to find out what is going wrong.

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Realising that youth is an essential resource in society, Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands have decided to focus on the psychological well-being of Nordic young people during their joint chairmanship of the Nordic council of ministers in 2020.

The Nordic welfare states can ill-afford to overlook that their youngest citizens do not feel good.

"Demography is a joint challenge. We are getting more old people and at the same time a smaller workforce. It is adding pressures on our welfare systems and on how we can finance them in future", Danish minister for Nordic cooperation, Mogens Jensen said when presenting the "State of the Nordic Region 2020", a statistical overview of the region's performance in Copenhagen on Tuesday (4 February).

"Young people are around the clock mirroring themselves in role models and many are feeling pressured to live up to certain ideals. It contributes to stress and adds pressure on people to perform and often beyond ability", the Danish minister said.

Despite having very generous provisions for parental leave, the Nordic countries are moving towards a China-like situation with the latest figures showing birth rates at historic-low levels in three Nordic countries, Iceland, Norway and Finland.

Only the Faroe Islands have enough children born to sustain the existing population.

"Youth is the most important resource we have," said Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen, the Faroe's co-chairman of the Nordic council of ministers.

"One misfit young person costs our society 2.5-2.8 million crowns per year (€350,000)", he pointed out and invited everybody to come to his islands to study fertility trends.

"If you are able to change the system and get one misfit young person into the labour force instead, then he or she will become a resource contributing to society instead of being an economic burden," he said.

Social media culprit

Social media was named as number one culprit for the lack of well-being among young people, but it is not the only one.

"It is a result of the competitive global society where you must be world champion at all times and in everything. If you don't make it as a space engineer or a doctor, then you are useless. We need to say instead, that each profession is of value. Whether you are craftsman, an academician or whatever you are, you are of value to your society," Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen said.

The trend of dissatisfied youth goes across the Nordic region but it is also observed in Canada and elsewhere.

"It is very complex. We can't point out one single factor for the young generation's feeling miserable. But we need more focus on this and more research to figure out, what to do about it", said Chris Holst Preuss, chairman of the Danish Youth Council, an umbrella organisation with more than 70 children and youth organisations as members.

The Danish Youth Council published last June a study, showing that one-in-three young people experiences a high level of stress, almost a fifth of young people have poor mental health, and about one-in-ten youngsters feels unwanted and alone.

This is higher than for any other age group and it hits girls harder than boys, the study found.

It also found that 77-percent of young people preferred to be with their friends in real life rather than online, and that half of young people wanted to spend less time on social media.

Yougsters' self-esteem is built on their achievements, and they assume responsibility for how they manage in life, increasing their concerns about not doing well enough.

But there is no room to show weakness in such a performance culture, according to the study which was conducted by Epinion among 1,500 representative young people.

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Eager to engage with climate-engaged youth, eight Nordic prime ministers met with nine young political leaders in Stockholm for the first time this week. But did the youngsters take the bite?

Stakeholder

Record-low birth rates in three Nordic countries

The State of the Nordic Region report, published 4 February 2020, has revealed that birth rates in Finland, Norway, and Iceland are at record-low levels. Only in the Faroe Islands does the birth rate exceed the death rate.

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