How Iceland Got Its Clean-Living Teens

A curfew and after-school programs are at heart of program
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2017 6:24 PM CST
Updated Jan 22, 2017 6:59 AM CST
How Iceland Got Its Clean-Living Teens
A file photo of the Thufa hill in Reykjavik, Iceland.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Teens in Iceland are a pretty clean-living bunch, especially when compared to their peers around the world. That wasn't always the case, but a clear shift has occurred over the last 20 years, explains a feature at Mosaic. Consider three stats: the percentage of 15- and 16-year-olds who have been drunk in the past month dropped from 42% in 1998 to 5% in 2016, while pot use fell from 17% to 7%, and cigarette use from 23% to 3%. Iceland's secret? An aggressive national program, built on the research of an American psychology professor, that would likely run into friction as government overreach in the US. One controversial part of Youth in Iceland, for example, is a national curfew that prohibits teens ages 13 to 16 from being outside after 10pm in winter and midnight in summer.

The bigger part of the program, however, involves a requirement that schools provide sports, music, art, and other rec programs after hours, and that low-income students get help in participating. In Reykjavik, for example, families get a "leisure card" of about $300 a year per child to help with the costs of recreational activities. New laws also required schools to create organizations for parents to get them more involved. The Icelandic model would surely run into challenges in the US and elsewhere, acknowledges Harvey Milkman, the American whose research into teen substance abuse is at the center of the program. "Is this too much of the government meddling?” he says, summing up a common refrain of critics. Click for the full article, which describes the approach as "both radical and evidence-based," but one that relies "a lot on what might be termed enforced common sense." (More Longform stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.