Report finds English children among the unhappiest in world

 

English children are among the most unhappy in the western world, according to a new report published today.

The Good Childhood Report published by The Children’s Society charity found English children came 30th out of 39 countries in Europe and North America in terms of “subjective wellbeing” – how they rated their own happiness and life satisfaction.

A separate comparison of 11 countries across the world put English children third from bottom in terms of wellbeing – behind their counterparts in Algeria, Romania, South Korea and Uganda.

After surveying more than 5,000 English children, the researchers found that the youngsters tended to be relatively happy with various aspects of their lives – like money and possessions – but anxious about things, such as their future and their appearance. 

The survey found that 13 per cent of English 10- to 13-year-olds were unhappy with the way they looked – and girls were by far the most worried about their appearance, with 18 per cent reporting unhappiness in this area, compared to 9 per cent of boys.

Indicating how important looks are to many children, one 12-year-old girl told researchers: “People are judged on looks. Sometimes you feel like you can’t enjoy yourself unless you are pretty.”

Although they tended to be happier with their school lives, girls’ greater anxiety about their appearance was a significant factor in them having a slightly lower sense of overall well-being than boys.

Perhaps inevitably, the teenage years were when English children were at their unhappiest.  While only 4 per cent of eight-year-olds reported low life satisfaction, that figure went up to 14 per cent for 15-year-olds.

The survey suggested that ages 14 to 15 were the most miserable stages of adolescence, with slightly higher levels of well-being reported among 16- and 17-year-olds. 

Overall, the survey found that 9 per cent – nearly one in 10 – of English eight- to 15-year-olds had “low life satisfaction”.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “That is a statistic none of us can afford to ignore In a period where the impact of austerity measures are disproportionately affecting low-income families with children, it is critical to keep focused on how young people are faring.”

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