Were We Better Than the Youth Today

Complaining that the younger generation is not half as good as we were once is an old habit. Graffiti on the walls of Pompeii complains about “These youths wearing their togas halfway down their legs.” The great poet and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero remarked, “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.”

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If Auger puts a trend line to similar comments down the years, we should be the lowest species on the planet with the apes in charge. But we are not, and they are not. In fact, we have already achieved remarkable things this millennium.

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If trends in America are anything to go by, the youth in Britain are on average actually better than we once were, however disturbing this may be to some. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has been monitoring ‘dangerous behaviours’ in youth since 1991.

Questions cover alcohol, tobacco, and drug use, unhealthy diets, couch potatoe-ing, violence, and unprotected sex. Ah yes, you say, and they scored badly? Curiously, not always. A young person born in 1972, and surveyed in 1991 was 61% more likely to smoke, 43% more likely to binge, and 63% more likely to be a parent than current 19-year-olds. However in our defence we did eat more veg, and generally skipped obesity in those good old, bad old days.

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