What Makes America's Youth Happy?

So what really makes someone between the ages of 13 and 24 happy? It's not what most parents or even MTV might think.

According to an extensive survey, spending time with family makes the young cohort happiest. Next was spending time with friends and then a significant other.

The survey was conducted on 1,280 people by The Associated Press and MTV. Results showed that 65 percent of America's young people are happy with their lives and 62 percent think greater happiness will come later.

The relationship with their parents was mentioned by 73 percent of survey respondents when asked what one thing makes them most happy. And those with divorced parents were less likely to wake up happy compared to teens with parents still together.

Nearly half also mentioned one of their parents as their heroes with mothers ranking higher (29 percent) than fathers (21 percent), according to the study. Of public figures, Martin Luther King, Jr. was mentioned the most.

After family, relationships with friends was mentioned most. And romantic relationships was also a source of happiness.

Among those who cite spirituality as the most important thing in their lives, a larger majority report being happy with life (80 percent) compared to those who say spirituality is not an important part of life (60 percent). Religion and spirituality are integral to nearly half of America's young people (44 percent). More than half say they believe there is a higher power that has an influence over things that make them happy (62 percent).

Simply belonging to an organized religious group makes people happier. Thirty-five percent said they attend religious services at least once a week. Living a religious life is at least "somewhat important" to 64 percent of young Americans. Also, 72 percent said making a difference in the world is at least "somewhat important."

Less than half strongly believe that their religious beliefs are true and universal and that other religious beliefs are not right (31 percent), while 68 percent follow their own religious beliefs but think that other religious beliefs could be true as well.

While most young people mentioned money as a top goal, almost none mentioned money or anything material as something that makes them happiest. But financial woes were mentioned as a source of unhappiness. Financial issues was mentioned most as the one thing in life that makes them most unhappy. Forty-nine percent think they'd be happier if they had more money. At the same time, 49 percent also said they'd be just as happy with more money.

Also, more than half said they think their career will be very important to their future happiness (56 percent).

While parents worry over a sexualized culture, sex was one of the least mentioned things that make America's young people most happy. Being sexually active actually leads to less happiness among 13-17 year olds, according to the survey. For those 18 to 24, sex might lead to more happiness in the moment, but not in general.

"You know what's really surprising is that this poll really flies in the face of some of these cultural values that MTV is pushing on kids," said Dr. Bill Maier, vice president and psychologist in residence at Focus on the Family, according to the organization's publication, CitizenLink. "MTV would say that kids just want pleasure and material goods, and they're not interested in marriage or commitment and they reject their parents."

Most young people think marriage would make them happy (85 percent) and 92 percent said they either definitely or probably want to get married. Most also want to have kids. In other findings, the poll revealed that whites were happier across economic categories than blacks and Hispanics.

The AP-MTV poll was conducted April 16-23 by Knowledge Networks Inc.