Sweden’s youth enjoy the highest levels of wellbeing among Index countries, but youth suicide and tobacco use are urgent concerns.
Sweden is the top performer for youth wellbeing among the Index countries, driven by the nation’s high scores in nearly every domain except for health, where there are specific challenges.
Sweden ranks first for economic opportunity, education, information and communication technology (ICT), and safety and security.
In education, indicators driving the high rank are the country’s secondary enrollment and lower secondary completion rates (both above 100 percent). Public spending on education is about 15 percent of total government expenditure, which places Sweden in the middle among Index countries. Although not measured by this Index, Sweden’s robust expenditures on other social services within its renowned public safety net likely positively contribute to Index outcomes.
Sweden is a connected society with 98 percent of individuals using the internet and 88 percent of youth reporting that they have a computer at home with online access.
Young people are afforded safety and security due to the country’s low rate of interpersonal violence (only 2 incidents per 100,000 young people), low rate of road fatalities (14 per 100,000 youth), and high score as measured by the internal peace domain of the Global Peace Index.
The number one rank for economic opportunity is largely driven by Sweden’s GDP per capita of US$55,186, which is the highest among Index countries. Despite its high performance on most economic measures, Sweden has a youth unemployment rate of 23 percent, which places it between Indonesia and Jordan in the bottom third of Index country rankings on this indicator.
Additionally, the country is second within the new gender equality domain and is third in citizen participation. Some notable indicators are the low percentage of women ages 15 to 19 who are married (1 percent), the existence of a national youth policy, and the top rank for Index countries for democracy as measured by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index.
Swedish youth face several health challenges. These include relatively high rates of tobacco use (22 percent), and youth self-harm (22 deaths per 100,000 young people). Although the average rate of youth suicide among Index countries has decreased since 2000, Sweden’s rates have remained consistently higher than the global average, with signs of increase. Sweden is not alone in this public health crisis. Globally, youth suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents. This problem is particularly acute in several developed countries such as Sweden, Japan, and Australia.
The Global Millennial Viewpoints Survey
Forty-nine percent of Swedish youth respondents to the Global Millennial Viewpoints Survey indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “my life is too stressful,” a figure placing Sweden in the middle of Index countries. At 34 percent, the proportion of youth polled who felt that government cares about their wants and needs was also in the mid-range.
While Sweden is ranked first in safety and security, nearly one-third (32 percent) of youth polled indicated that violence, abuse, bullying, or harassment at school or work was in their top three safety concerns. Forty-four percent of female respondents in Sweden fear walking alone at night, a common concern among women in other developed countries such as Germany and the United States.
Where perceptions differ most from the objective data is in the economic opportunity domain. Despite Sweden’s powerful economy and high global competitiveness, less than half (47 percent) of young survey respondents felt their standard of living would be better than that of their parents. This may result from the relatively high standard of living youth already experience in Sweden.