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Youth Optimism Higher in 'Lower-Income' Countries

The U.N. says 450,000 children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition in northeast Nigeria. (M. Besheer/VOA)

Out of 15 countries polled, young people in China, India, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico were found to be more optimistic about the future than youths in the other countries, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Young people in these countries are more likely to believe they can affect the way their countries are governed and that their generation will have a more positive impact on the world than their parents' generation, according to the Goalkeepers Global Youth Poll, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs.

The poll surveyed more than 40,000 people age 12 and older and asked for “their outlook on their personal lives, challenges for their communities, and the direction of their countries,” according to the foundation report. Youths expressed more optimism than older people about their futures at home and globally.

Girls and boys share a meal at the Makini Self-Help Primary School in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 23, 2016.
Girls and boys share a meal at the Makini Self-Help Primary School in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 23, 2016.

In the poll, Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, the United States and Saudi Arabia were deemed higher-income countries. Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria and Russia were considered middle- or lower-income.

Happiness ratings show general contentedness among the 15 countries, but youths in lower- and middle-income countries reported the highest levels of optimism.

Relationships with friends and family were the most important influence on a person’s life, and was highest in Sweden, the poll found.

Mexicans, Kenyans and Americans also ranked their relationships very high, like most countries, and more important than the impact of social media. And while social media scored high among Mexican youths, it remained lower than the positive impact of friends and family.

Health or well-being, and finances followed family and friends in importance. If they could have any job, most youths said they wanted to be doctors, while most adults said they wanted to be entrepreneurs.

Optimism about the ability to find good jobs was highest in China and lowest in Nigeria. Most countries hovered in the midrange.

Worldwide, most people, young and old, agreed “life is better for men and boys than for women and girls,” and will continue that way, and there was very little difference between male and female responses, the poll found.

“This is particularly true in India, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, the U.S. and Brazil,” the results said. Most responses said they thought conditions would improve for women.

Religion was most important to youths in Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, Sweden and Kenya, and least important to youths in China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Mexico and Russia.

In China, both youths and adults reported overwhelming optimism in the future of their country: 90 percent of youths and 78 percent of adults feel good about the future of their country. India, Nigeria, Mexico, Kenya and Indonesia reported similar levels of optimism about their countries.

A man lifts a child up to lantern decorations setup ahead of the Chinese New Year in Beijing, China.
A man lifts a child up to lantern decorations setup ahead of the Chinese New Year in Beijing, China.

In the U.S., 35 percent of youths and 18 percent of adults reported feeling optimistic about their country. Brazil, Sweden, Germany, Great Britain and France also reported feeling less optimistic.

In response to the sentence, “My generation is better off than my parents were,” both Chinese youth (90 percent) and adults (80 percent) were most positive. Nigerian, Indian, Indonesian and Saudi Arabia youths followed in line for youths. Indian, Indonesian, German, Saudi Arabian and Swedish adults in succession said their generation was better off than their parents.

Government or political leaders, and climate change or pollution had the most negative impact on life for both youths and adults.

Both younger and older respondents cited ending poverty and improving education as paramount over other issues, including ending conflicts.

Cancer was the No. 1 health concern universally. HIV/AIDS came in second globally, with greatest concern in Kenya, Nigeria and Mexico.

The “sadness of aging” bummed out everyone, youths and adults, with responses ranking in the negatives, meaning no one was happy about aging.