Leading psychologists have backed Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham's call to "scrap happiness surveys" and focus on providing young people with "the skills to cope with life's troughs".

A review of happiness studies by psychology Professor Nicholas Emler suggested that people are born with a personal level of self-esteem pre-set for life but a leading expert in the study of resilience, Professor Michael Rutter from King's College, believes people can build up the quality of tackling adversity from a young age.

Prof Rutter said: "There is evidence that stress can cause strengthening in some people. Exposure to emotional pressure can make the body's nervous and hormonal systems more resistant to stress are better prepared for greater challenges later in life."

As such, psychologists Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte, of the University of Pennsylvania, have come up with the concept of 'resilience coaching'.

Their theories have already been put into practice at 46 state schools in Hertfordshire where 6,000 11-year-olds have received 18 hours of resilience lessons per year since 2007.

Lucy Bailey, who runs the scheme, said: "Our aim is not to help people be happy. We're trying to help young people lower their risk of becoming clinically anxious and depressed.

"Children who unexpectedly commit suicide often come from supportive families and have good school records, but have never come across adversity before.

"When they do, whether it's romantic troubles, academic failure or problems with parents, they don't have the skills to cope."

Posted 02/07/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com