The “Catholic ethic” helps to explain why teenagers in Mexico are happier than teenagers in Britain, according to the Chief of Staff at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Gabriela Ramos said countries such as Mexico and Poland benefit from their religiosity while richer countries such as Britain depend on the welfare state, rather than family and community, for support.
She was speaking after the publication of OECD research which found British teenage girls were among some of the most miserable in the world.
Bulgaria, Thailand, Poland and Mexico had notably lower proportions of unhappy girls. Mrs Ramos said studies had found that the “Catholic ethic” was a helpful one in terms of putting family and community before wealth.
In Mexico, youngsters rated their life satisfaction with an average score of 8.27 on a scale of one to ten, while in Britain it was significantly lower at 6.98.
When asked about the difference, Mrs Ramos, who is Mexican herself, told the Daily Mail: “Social relationships are very good [in Mexico] – social capital, family, support systems. [This is] probably because you don’t have institutional developed systems to take care of people like you do in advanced economies where you have all the social systems that will help you with unemployment payments.
“You rely a lot on your family and your family are always there.
“The communities are still supporting each other, because they know that if somebody fails, there is no one that will help them.”
She said that people in less wealthy countries tend to be “more optimistic” because society is “still being built” and there is a “potential to do so many things”.
And she said that although levels of bullying are high in Mexico, students appear to be “more tolerant” of it.
The research found that 19.4 per cent of girls in Britain reported feeling “not satisfied” with life compared to 11.9 per cent of boys.
The average proportion of dissatisfied girls across all OECD countries was 14.3 per cent.
Britain came fourth out of 49 when countries were ranked according to the amount of dissatisfaction teenage girls felt.