A new study helps support the notion that happy young teens are more likely to avoid crime.

To reach this finding, researchers at the University of California, Davis analyzed 1995 and 1996 data from nearly 15,000 students in grades 7 to 9. About 29 percent of the students said they'd committed at least one criminal offense and 18 percent said they had used at least one illegal drug.

The researchers, who used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, then looked at the students' self-reported levels of emotional well-being. They found that those who said they were happier were less likely to commit crimes or use drugs.

The team also found that youth with even minor depression were much more likely to be involved in criminal activity or drug use. And while most adolescents have periods of happiness and depression, it's when negative periods begin to outnumber the more positive ones that trouble can start, the California team said.

They theorized that the benefits of being generally happy -- such as maintaining strong bonds with others, feeling good about oneself, and gaining good social skills -- can help kids make good decisions that are "informed by positive emotions."

Source: U.S. News & World Report
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2011/08/22/happy-teens-usually-crime-free-teens-study-finds