Posted: 30 July 2020

Lives on hold and what it means for young people's well-being

Over the past few months, we have been living in unprecedented and uncertain times as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdown measures, school closures and social distancing have all had a substantial impact on the way we live our lives.

But, what have been the experiences of children, young people and their families during this time? And how has children’s well-being been affected?

Our well-being research

Every year we measure the well-being of children in the UK through a regular survey, with the findings presented in our Good Childhood Report. This research has shown how, since 2009, children’s well-being in this country has been in decline.

In our 2020 survey, we included a number of questions to gauge the impact of Covid-19 and the resulting social distancing/lockdown measures on children’s lives. The survey was completed between April and June, when the UK was in lockdown.

Our latest briefing, Life on Hold, brings together the findings of these survey questions about Covid-19, together with children’s own accounts. Key findings include:

The well-being of some children has been affected

It is perhaps not surprising that both children and parents have been worried to some extent about the virus over the past few months.

Our findings suggest that children’s well-being has been affected as a result of the pandemic. Whilst most children remain happy with their lives, a greater proportion than usual gave low well-being scores across different well-being measures, with up to one in five reporting they were unsatisfied with their lives during lockdown.

‘People aren’t really understanding things like how much stress this is putting on some people.’ - 18 year old

Children feel like they have less choice

Given the lockdown measures, it is not surprising that children also seem to particularly struggle with the amount of choice and autonomy they have at this time. 

Whilst most children reported coping to some degree with the changes made as a result of the pandemic, they did report coping less well with not being able to see their friends and family at this time.

‘If you can try and FaceTime as often as you can with your friends because personally it really comforts me.’ - Female, 11

Parents are worried about the long-term impacts

Parent’s reported a wide range of impacts of the pandemic on their family. When we asked parents the likely impact of Coronavirus in the next 12 months, parents commonly anticipated a negative impact on both employment of an adult in the household and on family finances. 

‘It has made me realise that the future is more unpredictable than I thought. I am going to value what I have now.’ Male, 13

Well-being at the centre of recovery

As we recover from the Coronavirus pandemic, it gives us the opportunity to reset the way we promote, support and respond to children’s well-being.

The pandemic highlights why we have long called for a more comprehensive approach to collecting data on children’s well-being. If we want to ensure a meaningful recovery, it’s crucial that we listen and understand the experiences of children and young people and that data about this supports decision making, not only as we ease lockdown measures, but it in the future.

At a time where great change is underway, it is crucial that the opportunity is seized to make children’s well-being a priority.


By Charlotte Rainer - Policy team

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