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Social Justice

‘National scandal’: 250,000 children in the UK are unhappy

The Children’s Society’s annual Good Childhood report finds that even one experience of income poverty led to lower life satisfaction and higher depressive symptoms by the time a child reaches 14 years old

More than 250,000 children in the UK are unhappy with worries about friendships, poverty and wider political issues like Brexit all playing their part.

The Children’s Society’s annual Good Childhood Report brings together various surveys that have quizzed kids of all ages on their well-being. They are asking you to help them call on the government to introduce a centralised national measurement of children’s well-being after the latest report uncovered what the charity’s chief executive Mark Russell called a “national scandal”.

Modern childhood is a happy and carefree time for most, yet for too many it is not. It is a national scandal that children’s unhappiness is increasing so quickly

The report found that children as young as 10 are concerned with broad societal issues like crime, the environment and sharing information online. Brexit comes under that category too, of course, but its impact was more keenly felt by older children, especially girls, aged 14 to 17 while most younger kids were still unsure about the EU withdrawal turmoil.

In a survey of year 10 pupils, homelessness was a rarer issue out of the 24 disadvantages, but had a “significant impact on the young people who reported it”.

The Children’s Society also assessed the impact poverty had on kids using the Millennium Cohort Study, a project that has surveyed kids since the year 2000 at the ages of three, five, seven, 11 and 14 years old.

From there they found that children who experience any poverty – using the standard measurement of up to 60 per cent of median equivalised income before deduction of housing costs – was associated with significantly lower life satisfaction and significantly higher depressive symptoms by the age of 14.

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Meanwhile, the charity also reported that boys were catching up with girls when it comes to unhappiness with their appearance – affecting one in 12 boys aged 10-15.

A third of 10-17 year olds worry about having enough money in the future, with more than a quarter worrying about getting a job.

The charity also highlighted “huge concern” at decreasing happiness with friendships, citing bullying, excessive social media and loneliness as potential reasons.

“Modern childhood is a happy and carefree time for most, yet for too many it is not. It is a national scandal that children’s unhappiness is increasing so quickly,” said Mark Russell, chief executive at The Children’s Society.

“Today’s young people are becoming progressively unhappy with their friendships – one of the fundamental building blocks of well-being – as well as appearance and school. We also know that excessive social media use is a factor linked to children’s low well-being.”

The Department of Education have cited improved teacher power to tackle bullying, investment in mental health support and compulsory health education as helping youngsters.

A spokesperson said: “We want young people growing up in a modern Britain to feel confident tackling the challenges life throws at them.”

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