Youth Futures: Comparative Research and Transformative Visions

By Jennifer Gidley; Sohail Inayatullah | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Future Visions, Social Realities,
and Private Lives: Young People
and Their Personal Well-Being

Richard Eckersley

The relationship between global futures and personal well-being is mediated through the quality of hope. Hope is linked to other qualities crucial to well-being, especially meaning and purpose in life. Frank writes: “A unique feature of human consciousness is its inclusion of the future. Expectations strongly affect all aspects of human functioning. . . . Hope inspires a feeling of well-being and is a spur to action. Hopelessness, the inability to imagine a tolerable future, is a powerful motive for suicide.”1 Nunn describes hope as “a pervasive and significant correlate of health and disorder.”2 In a study of the psychosocial impact of the earthquake that struck Newcastle, Australia, in 1989, he and his colleagues found that hopelessness was as important in explaining post-earthquake illness as exposure to disruption and threat.

In his famous account of life in concentration camps during World War II, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl says the prisoner who had lost faith in the future was doomed.3 As he lost his belief, he also lost his spiritual hold and went into a physical and mental decline. “It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future.” Frankl quotes Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”

The future and the hope discussed here are personal. They do not concern expectations of the future of the world or humanity. The relationship between this broad vision of the future and personal well-being is a trickier issue. The bleakness of many young people’s views on the future of the planet and the fate of humanity first aroused my interest in their well-being, including issues such as suicide, drug abuse, and crime. I came across the research on youth futures while writing a report for the Australian Commission for the Future on Australians’ attitudes toward science, technology, and the future. As the father of three young children, I was deeply impressed by the sense of hopelessness that pervades the imagery of many

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