TEENAGERS in the UK are the least satisfied and most troubled in Europe, the Children’s Society reports.
In its annual Good Childhood Report, released today, the Church of England charity says that 15-year-olds in the UK scored lower levels of life satisfaction than those in 24 other European countries.
This is the ninth in the Children’s Society’s series of yearly reports. Its investigation found that the UK also ranked last out of the countries surveyed for children’s overall sense of purpose: 43 per cent said that they felt their life lacked meaning.
In the UK, boys aged 15 reported a markedly lower level of well-being from girls of the same age: 14 per cent compared with 23 per cent of girls. In comparison, in France, Portugal, and Spain, only eight per cent of girls and six per cent of boys had low life-satisfaction scores.
The charity also said that changes in child poverty within countries were linked to life satisfaction, which could explain the poor levels in the UK. Between 2015 and 2018, the UK had the largest increase in relative child poverty — about four per cent compared with two per cent across the other 24 countries.
The charity also argued that a lack of close friendships among teenagers, as well as pressures in school, had contributed to low levels of well-being. Three per cent of the UK children surveyed said that they had no close friends to talk to if they were in trouble.
The report also refers to data from the 2017-18 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study, which showed that, out of 45 countries, the UK had some of the highest levels of schoolwork pressure reported by 15-year-olds. England came third, with 74 per cent of girls and 62 per cent of boys saying that they felt pressured by schoolwork. Wales was fifth (75 per cent of girls and 55 per cent of boys), and Scotland sixth (74 per cent of girls and 53 per cent of boys).
The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Mark Russell, said: “As a society, we can’t be content with children in the UK being the most unsatisfied with their lives in Europe. It has to change.
“Even before the pandemic, which we know has taken a huge toll on our children’s well-being, many felt their life didn’t have a sense of purpose. We believe it is not only a fear of failure — which in previous research we found was higher amongst those living in poverty — but also rising child poverty levels that could partly be to blame.
“Modern life has been chipping away at our children’s happiness during the last decade. We need action and for the Government to provide long-term investment to stop this toxic trend. As we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, and children return to the classroom, we must hit the restart button. . .
“We must listen to children’s voices and work with them to shape changes in schools, communities, and society that will support them to have happy and fulfilled childhoods.”