GLASGOW’S children are the happiest in Scotland, according to new research which challenges the city’s image as a place plagued by violence and poverty.
Youngsters aged 11 to 15 were around 50% more likely to report feeling very happy and always confident compared with Scots children elsewhere.
And it may be the city’s legendary “banter” that is key, according to the study, funded by NHS Health Scotland and published in the journal Public Health.
Researchers suggest that Glasgow’s generally high level of “social interaction” helps the mental health of adolescents living there.
The results are all the more surprising given numerous headlines about Glasgow being the murder capital of Europe, the continent’s sickest city, and a metropolis infested with criminal gangs and sectarianism.
Katy Levin, of the Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit at St Andrews University, described the findings as a “compete anomaly” that was difficult to explain.
She said: “The pupils in Glasgow are not the only ones to be happy, but they are more likely to be very happy.
“They are also almost twice as likely to never feel left out in Glasgow. That is a really striking statistic.”
The data for the study was taken from a nation survey into the health and wellbeing of youngsters which is carried out every four years.
The research concluded: “The Glasgow effect may not be all bad. The findings suggest that mental wellbeing is more prevalent in Glasgow compared with the rest of Scotland during adolescence.”
Stressing it was her personal view, Levin said she believed the findings were “to do with social interaction”.
She said: “People talk about the incidental physical activity – taking exercise almost by accident, such as walking upstairs at work.
“I think there is something in Glasgow with social interaction which is a bit like that, in that you can’t walk the length of Dumbarton Road without someone talking to you.
“Certainly during adolescence, right from the age of 11, you can see a positive Glasgow effect on happiness and confidence and never feeling left out. It is definitely still there at 15.”
Levin said research had not yet been carried out to establish whether the same positive effect could be found in older age groups.
Pupils at St Andrews Secondary School in the east end of the city agreed with the findings.
Christopher Cummiskey, 17, said: “I think there is a negative stereotype of Glasgow but that is really a small minorty of folk. I think the majority of people are happy living in Glasgow. There is always something happening.”
Two 15-year-olds, Jonathan Kankolongo and Reece Delaney, said they enjoying playing football and there is no shortage of places in the city to kick a ball around.
Dana McManus, 15, said the city’s image suffered as a result of those who were involved in knife crime and gang culture.
She said: “Not everyone is like that, a lot of people are different. But they get included in what everyone’s perceptions are of young people.”
Jack Green is a 16-year-old member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, representing Glasgow Anniesland.
He said: “Glasgow is a very good place to live. It is a very friendly city, although some areas are obviously more friendly than others.
“There are lots of activities for young people to do and it has got fantastic sports facilities.”
Last year, research by Glasgow University found youngsters from the city’s most deprived areas were aiming much higher in life than generally assumed.
The team, led by Professor Ralf St Clair and Keith Kintrea, found higher-than-expected levels of aspirations amongst the city’s youngsters.
Psychologist Cynthia McVey drew inescapable comparisons with Glasgow’s traditional rival at the eastern end of the M8.
She said: “Edinburgh is obviously the place to be in the sense of if you are interested in the arts and culture, but they may feel in Glasgow that anything goes, there is a wider range of activity that makes them more comfortable.”
She added: “Adolescence is a stage which is traditionally full of angst and it can be very trying for adolescents.
“But if you take it across the board and assume all adolescents will be feeling this, there may be some features of living in Glasgow that makes them a little bit happier. There is lots to do – parks, theatres, cinema, clubs and cafes and so on.”