The neuroscience on how to motivate a teenager

Publication date: 
Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 11:00

It may not be the meek that inherit the earth but the unhealthy. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 81% of young people are not getting enough exercise, 18% are obese and 75% of mental health problems will have emerged by the age of 24.

Generation Z has lit the fuse on a health time bomb with an immediate cost that will increase exponentially across generations. The WHO recognises this as a major driver of investment in adolescent health.

Science tells us that adolescence offers a unique opportunity for motivating young people to develop healthier lifestyles. Neuroscientists like Dr Frances Jensen state that "the teen brain is nothing short of miraculous" as a "learning machine". However, as Dr Jensen goes on to say, adolescent brains "respond strongly to good things but also negative stimuli". So how do we move them towards the healthful rather than the harmful?