What can we do?

Research shows us key things we - parents, practitioners, all of us - can do to help boost young people's well-being.

In our Good Childhood Report 2013, we looked into ways that young people - and their parents and other people in their lives, such as teachers - can boost their well-being.

We also explored broader issues that are beyond young people's control, such as issues related to national and local government, as well as services that support young people.

What children and families can do

We jointly carried out some research with nef (the new economics foundation) to explore ways that children can boost their well-being.

Many of these ways to well-being are the same as those proposed for adults by nef, with some important differences.

Five ways to young people's well-being

At NHS Direct, in countries across the world and for anyone interested in well-being, nef's 'Five ways to well-being' is very influential as a way of raising well-being among adults.

We worked with nef to see whether this was something that would apply to children's well-being, or if we needed a completely new approach for young people.

We found good evidence in our research to support four of nef's five ways with children, as well as one that is not in nef's list.

Those ways are:

  • Connect - enable young people to spend time with friends and family
  • Be active - urge young people to exercise regularly, either on their own or in a team
  • Take notice - encourage awareness of environment and feelings
  • Keep learning - keep young people's world as large as possible, encouraging their natural curiosity
  • Creativity and play - encourage children's imagination and creativity as they grow

Evidence for the fifth of nef's ways to well-being, Give, was more mixed, although children did talk about being kind and doing things to help others in an informal sense. This suggests that giving makes most sense to children in terms of their relationships with others.

Read our guide 'How to support your child's well-being'

How practitioners can help improve young people's well-being

By the end of August, we will jointly produce a report with nef about how practitioners can improve young people's well-being.

Please follow us on Twitter or Facebook for details of when this guide is available.

Evidence for national government

Our analysis of the national policy contexts in which children have higher or lower levels of well-being can be a useful way of identifying changes to policy to improve children's well-being in the UK.

As well as the evidence generated by research programmes such as ours, it is important to have self-reported data from children at a national level that is comparable with other countries, and can be used to track trends over time.

Existing surveys partly meet this need, but they do not cover all of the aspects of well-being that we know are important. For this reason, we expect Children's Worlds, a cross-national survey of children's self-reported well-being in which we are involved, alongside a diverse range of other countries, to yield some interesting comparisons. We will be publishing the findings from the English part of this survey by the end of the year.

Evidence for local government

Well-being measures can also be used at the local level to better understand the ways in which children in a particular geographical area are faring better or worse than the national average, and to help identify priorities for local policy and strategic planning.

In the Isle of Wight, for example, we carried out an island-wide well-being survey of 5000 children, and this was used to inform the development of a Children and Young People's Plan and an island-wide anti-bullying strategy.


Individual interventions can also be informed by the use of well-being measures. Our analysis of Understanding Society data show that children who have low life satisfaction but do not meet thresholds for mental ill-health are more likely than children with higher life satisfaction to experience a range of poor outcomes in relation to school, family and health behaviours.

This points to the useful role that well-being measures could play in the early identification of problems in children's lives, and in early intervention to prevent the entrenchment of these problems.

What's next

If you would like more detail about any subject we've addressed, please read the full version of The Good Childhood Report 2013

Our Good Childhood Conversations team is creating a guide to enable communities to apply the findings of our Good Childhood research to help boost children's well-being in their area.

Please watch our blog for details of when this becomes available, as well as other stories related to young people's well-being.