Trends and

What have children told us since we began our well-being research in 2005? What's new for this year?

In The Good Childhood Report 2012, we highlighted that most children aged 8-15 are happy with their lives as a whole, but a small proportion is not. This year's report extends our analysis to also include children up to age 17.

Our latest research also reveals that around four-fifths of children are 'flourishing', meaning that they are satisfied with their lives as a whole and find their lives worthwhile.

Conversely, about 20% of children 8-15 years old score below the midpoint for one of the two well-being measures we use, while 10%, or half a million, are struggling - they score low on both measures.

Age differences in well-being

We have consistently found in research with 8-15 year olds that well-being declines with age. However, until recently, we did not know whether this downward trend continues for older children.

By including 16 and 17-year-olds in a recent wave of our research we were able to explore this further.

We found that the downward trend in well-being reverses from age 16 for satisfaction with life as a whole, feeling that life is worthwhile, and some - but not all - aspects of the ten key aspects of well-being (we refer to these as The Good Childhood Index, and we'll discuss them in detail in the next chapter).

Happiness with choice increased the most between the ages of 15 and 17. This new analysis demonstrates that children are more likely to experience low well-being in the early teenage years, but this is not inevitable.

Happiness with some aspects of life, such as school, appearance and choice drop a lot more than other aspects of life - such as happiness with friendships - between ages 8-15, which remains high during these years.

What life is like for children with low well-being

In The Good Childhood Report 2013, we analysed the responses of children with low well-being to questions about different aspects of their lives.

They told us that they are:

  • much less likely - more than 20 times - to feel safe at home than their peers with medium to high well-being
  • eight times more likely to say that their family does not get along well together
  • five times more likely to report having recently been bullied.

In the next section, the three keys, we address the key aspects of well-being and share more videos that feature young people's experiences.

Well-being isn't rising like it had been

The British Household Panel, which asked 11 to 15-year-olds about their satisfaction with life as a whole and with their family, friends, schoolwork and appearance between 1994 and 2008 show a significant increase in well-being during this period.

When we updated this analysis with the Understanding Society survey data for the two following years (the most recent data available), we discovered that the rise in well-being between 1994 and 2008 halted and may have begun to reverse.