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young woman with hoop earrings smiling at camera outside in park

My dream
is to make
others happy
My dream is to make others happy

The Good Childhood Report

Our Good Childhood Report 2021 shows that modern life continues to erode the happiness of young people. Dissatisfied with school, friendships and how they look, children deserve drastic change.

Our key findings

  • An estimated 306,000 10-15 year olds in the UK are unhappy with their lives
  • Roughly ¼ million children did not cope well with changes during the pandemic
  • Young people are particularly unhappy about school and appearance

key findings from Good Childhood Report 2021

icon of eye

1 in 7

girls are unhappy with how they look

icon of pencil

1 in 9

children are unhappy with their school

Decade of decline graphic

Boy looking straight at camera on left, same boy looking down at floor on right, green arrow point down over top

Decade of decline

Our tenth annual Good Childhood Report finds that 7% of 10 to 15 year olds (an estimated 306,000 children) in the UK are not happy with their lives.

Ten years ago, the estimated number was more like 173,000. Children's happiness is in an alarming state of decline.

Society is tragically failing our young people. School, friendships and how they feel about the way they look are causing the greatest dissatisfaction in adolescence.

At school you are under pressure to look pretty, wear make-up, have the right figure

two girls blowing chewing gum bubbles outside in sun

Improving children's well-being

Right now there are young people fighting for hope. The Government must make children's well-being a priority.

Young people's well-being and how they feel about appearance

mock up of glossy magazine with 'children unhappy with their appearance' quotes written across


More young people are unhappy with how they look. Over the years, boys have become more worried about their appearance.

Now, an estimated 1 in 8 boys are unhappy with how they look and 1 in 7 girls are feeling the pressure of looking good.

Young people tell us how social media could be more body positive and more representative of people's appearance. 

teenage boys fixing bike and laughing

the most important
thing is to have
a caring society
the most important thing is to have a caring society

– young person


Alongside appearance, unhappiness with school has grown over the last ten years. In both cases teenagers are coming under pressure to adhere to high standards and it's affecting their well-being.

The proportion of children unhappy with their school lives has leapt from 1 in 11 ten years ago to 1 in 8.

the pressure is unhealthy for young people

young people's well-being and how they feel about the future

girl with two thought bubbles displaying worry about world and future pandemics

Beyond the pandemic

Young people have been incredibly resilient during the pandemic. Most 10-17 year olds seem to have coped well with the disruption.

However, an estimated quarter of a million have struggled. Not being able to see their friends and family would’ve taken its toll on their well-being.

With the NHS planning to vaccinate children aged 12 and above, how do they feel about it? Around 62% of children and 66% of parents said they would be in favour of the vaccine. The rest didn't want it or were unsure. 

how young people feel about the future

The uncertainty of the past year would’ve also impacted how they feel about the future.

Having enough money, being able to find a job and getting good grades were what children were most worried about in 2021. They also raised concerns about future pandemics and the environment. But many are optimistic. 

I have my future planned I have my future planned

facts about how young people feel about the future

7 in 10

10-17 years olds were optimistic about the future


were not optimistic or felt indifferent

What does this mean for young people's mental health?

Our well-being growing up can have a serious impact on future mental health. We found that children who are not happy with their lives at 14 are more likely than others to have symptoms of mental health issues by the time they are 17. Worryingly, this includes instances of self-harm and suicide attempts.

We cannot let this be the norm.  We must overhaul daily life and build a society for all children.

If I were world leader, I would focus on mental health

The Good Childhood Report 2021

For more information about the dominant trends in children's well-being, read the full report.

Read the full report
report illustration

our well-being work

We protect and listen to young people in their most crucial stages of development. Our mental health drop-in centres across the country are there for young people when they need to talk about their problems. We keep them safe from abuse, neglect and exploitation.