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Teenagers in the UK among the world’s least optimistic

09 June 2023


TEENAGERS in the UK feel less optimistic about the future and are less confident that change is possible than their peers in other countries, a new study suggests.

Only one third of the UK teenagers surveyed thought that they had the potential to make a difference, and they felt let down by, and unable to trust, current leaders. Researchers also found that the teenagers felt less connected with their communities than teenagers in other countries did.

Just 15 per cent of the young people in the UK were optimistic about the future, compared with 29 per cent of teenagers around the world.

The report, Open Generation, an international study of the views and values of 25,000 teenagers, was published last month and conducted by the US-based Barna Group, together with Alpha, Biblica, and World Vision. One thousand young people, aged 13 to 17, from the UK took part.

The issues with which teenagers were most concerned were climate change, mental health, and extreme poverty.

With regard to attitudes to Christianity, one quarter of British teenagers in the survey had positive perceptions of Jesus, agreeing with the description that he was an advocate for justice and offered love. They were unsure, however, about the part that church leaders played in issues of justice, and, although more than half of the respondents said that they were motivated by justice themselves, they also lacked confidence to act.

The chief executive of the Barna Group, David Kinnaman, said: “The data in this report reveal that teens in the United Kingdom are in a formative and precarious season of life.

“It is encouraging to see they are open to Jesus, show interest in learning more about the Bible, and are motivated toward addressing injustice in the world. But we also noticed challenges, including British teens’ lack of confidence in their ability to make an impact, and their uncertainty about the Christian Church’s role in addressing injustice.

“Our goal for this study is to help churches and Christian leaders in the UK engage, disciple, and support this rising generation entering adulthood.”

The programme manager of World Vision UK, Simon Gibbes, said that the finding that British teenagers were passionate about social justice was not a surprise. “However, they lack the confidence and commitment to follow through their motivation with action, rather deferring responsibility to governmental bodies.

“There also seems to be a challenge with how teens are perceiving the role of the Church in relation to issues of social justice. However, this presents an opportunity for Christian leaders.

“This report reminds us of how a healthy support network can contribute towards a young person’s confidence to engage with the issues they see in the world around them, and highlights the need to reimagine social justice at the heart of the gospel.”

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