The Good Childhood Report

Modern life has been chipping away at children’s happiness over time. Our Good Childhood Report 2020 finds this toxic trend continues.

Our key findings

  • There has been a continued decrease in average happiness with life among 10-15 year olds in the UK.
  • Happiness with friends is in decline.
  • 15-year olds in the UK were among the saddest and least satisfied with their lives in Europe.
  • The Coronavirus pandemic affected children’s happiness due to the lack of choice they had in life.

Restart button

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Hit the restart button

Children’s happiness with life has been in decline for most of the last decade and this year is no exception. Worries about relationships with friends, appearance and school seem to be key factors. Even before the pandemic, 15-year-olds in the UK were among the saddest and least satisfied with their lives in Europe. It is time to listen to what young people need.

As we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, we can hit the restart button. We need to kick-start a decade of renewal for young people.

fear of failing

Fear of failure

With exam stress, bullying, and school culture, more and more young people are becoming unhappy with school. 

Our report highlights the high levels of ‘fear of failure’ among 15 year olds in the UK compared to other countries. Many felt their life didn’t have a sense of purpose.

Our education system needs a rethink. Well-being and academic achievement should go hand-in-hand. 

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Children's well-being comparison

We compared children's well-being in the UK with other European countries.

The UK had the largest drop in mean life satisfaction between 2015 and 2018 of the 21 comparable countries with data at both time points.

Good childhood map

Map of Europe showing childhood satisfaction lowest in the UK
Boy in school library smiling

People who love me can make me happy at the worst times People who love me can make me happy at the worst times


A group of children smiling close together

Failing friendship

One of the most concerning trends is the decline in children’s happiness with friends. There are an estimated 132,000 children aged 10-15 in this country have no close friends.

Friendships and unhappiness are often linked with social media, but it is more complicated than this. Evidence of social media being a contributing factor is mixed.

Outside of school there is a crucial role for Youth Services in improving well-being and helping young people to form strong peer relationships.

Young people we talked to created a friendship guide for other young people. They also created a friendship guide to help adults support their child's friendships. 

Download the Good Childhood Report

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As children go back to school and we slowly emerge from the crisis, join us in asking the Government to put children’s well-being at the heart of our national recovery.

These toxic trends must not stand. We have to turn things around and restore hope.