"Gratitude played an important role in many areas of positive mental health of the teens in our study," lead author Giacomo Bono of California State University said in a statement. "Increases in gratitude over a four-year period were significantly related to improvements in life satisfaction, happiness, positive attitudes and hope."
The researchers asked 700 students ages 10-14 to complete questionnaires in their classroom at the beginning of the study and four years later.
The researchers compared the results of the least grateful 20 percent of the students with the most grateful 20 percent and found teens with the most gratitude by the end of the four-year period had:
-- Gained 15 percent more of a sense of meaning in their life;
-- Become 15 percent more satisfied with their life overall at home, school and neighborhood.
-- Become 17 percent more happy and more hopeful about their lives;
-- Experienced a 13 percent drop in negative emotions; and
-- Experienced a 15 percent drop in depressive symptoms.
Even if teens didn't start off with lots of gratitude, they could still benefit if they developed more gratitude over the four-year period, Bono said.
"The teens also showed slight reductions overall in delinquency, such as alcohol and drug use, cheating on exams, skipping school, detention and administrative discipline," Bono told the American Psychological Association's 120th annual convention in Orlando, Fla.