In perhaps the largest study ever done in such a short time, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence teamed up with Born This Way Foundation to execute a survey of more than 22,000 high school students conducted over a three-month period. Reaching out to adolescents through schools and through the social media net of the Foundation’s founder, singer Lady Gaga, researchers were able to attract an overwhelming number of responses in the set time period, far more than expected.
“We had 45,000 responses in total,” said Marc Brackett, Ph.D., director of the Yale Center, “and for this study, we used about 22,000.”
The other responses will be used for future studies, he explained, covering other aspects of school life.
Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the survey found that high school students, when asked how they were feeling, were far more likely to respond with a negative emotion than positive.
Nearly 75 percent of the emotions listed were negative, such as tired, bored or stressed. The students also claimed to be “bored” 70 percent and “stressed” 80 percent of the time. When asked how they would like to feel, most said “happy,” “excited” or “energized.”
The survey did not find a statistically relevant difference among genders or between socio-economic or cultural groups, Brackett said.
“I don’t think there has been another study that asked youth in their own words how they were feeling and then looked at the frequency of the words they chose to use,” said Brackett.
As part of their efforts towards creating a movement to support young people’s emotional lives, the Born This Way Foundation hosted an “Emotion Revolution Summit,” inviting 200 high school students to learn more about the research and efforts the foundation is making to reach out to troubled youth.
The event included panel discussions, workshops and talks with educators, advocates and Lady Gaga as well. Attendees were asked for input on creating programs for schools to enact and ways to further the idea that emotions and mental health should be taken seriously by educators and especially, by the students themselves.
Brackett spoke to the students about the research and pointed out that, as a child, he was bullied and the adults around him did not have the tools to help him resolve the situation. It is a situation that he and the others involved in the project hope to counteract.
The Center worked with Facebook, another sponsor of the Emotion Revolution, to create an online resource for educators and students to introduce programs at their schools to support the development of social and emotional skills. This site, “inspirED,” was launched over the summer and will see a more official introduction in the next few months.
The next steps, said Brackett, are to “unpack the reasons why these youth are feeling ‘bored’ and ‘stressed’ at school and to understand what these words mean to them.”
By Catherine Robertson Souter