The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, has today launched a study by The Children’s Society that claims that half a million school children in Britain are deeply unhappy with their lives.
More than 30,000 children aged eight to 15 were interviewed in the study, and around one in 11 (9%) answered that they are not happy with their lives. This amounts to half a million children in the UK aged eight to 15 who have low well-being at any given time.
Dr. Sentamu writes in his introduction to the report that “we should see this report not as simply an interesting piece of research but an urgent clarion call to action.”
The report goes against thinking that the structure of a family is the important factor in a child’s happiness. Instead a key finding of the report was that it is not the structure, but the relationships within a family that children care most about. The study reports that loving relationships between a child and their family are ten times more powerful than family structure in increasing well-being in the child’s life.
Stability has been shown to be an important factor in happiness and well being, as children who experience a change in family members they are living with are twice as likely to experience low well-being and happiness.
Appearance, and ‘fitting’ in are also major features determining the happiness of children in today’s society, as has, unsurprisingly, the financial crisis. According to the study, children as young as eight are aware of the financial issues their families face, and children in families who have experienced a reduction in income are more likely to have low well-being.
Poverty is one of the overriding factors in children’s happiness, with those living in the poorest 20% of households having much lower than average well-being. Speaking to the BBC this morning Dr. Sentamu also suggested that children living at any extremes, be it the low end of family income, but also perhaps unexpectedly, at the high end of the income scale, are less likely to be happy than those living in the middle.
Dr. Sentamu said, “The moral test for any society is how it treats its most vulnerable, including its children. The fact that at any one time half a million children who are unhappy with their lives should be a wake-up call to us all. Policy makers and public alike will find clear information in this report about what causes our children to be unhappy with their lives. With such understanding comes the opportunity to make changes using the six priorities that The Children’s Society has identified to make sure that every child has a good childhood.”
You can see the findings of the report in full on the The Children’s Society website.