The Childrens Society

Children's
well-being today

How happy are our children today? Using our Good Childhood Index, which covers the 10 most important aspects of children’s lives, our report looks at the current state of children’s well-being in the UK, and how we compare with other countries. Are boys happier than girls, and does age influence well-being?

Your happiness depends on your status in the community or how little you care about everything.

Year 10 pupil

Overall, we found that most British children are happy with their lives but 9% of them (around half a million) have low well-being at any one time. Between 1994 and 2007 there was a rise in children's well-being but more recently, from 2008 to 2011, this trend levelled off and now appears to be stable.

How do children from England compare with children from other countries?

This year, for the first time, we were able to show how children in England feel compared with a sample of children from 11 other countries around the world. Children in England ranked ninth - behind Romania, Brazil and Algeria and only ahead of South Korea and Uganda.

Children in England fare particularly poorly when it comes to feelings about their appearance, with 13% unhappy with the way they look. They also fare worse in thoughts about the future, family and their health. However, they do well when it comes to their homes, their friends, and their money and possessions.

Ranking of children in England for 10 aspects of life covered in The Good Childhood Index (out of 11 countries)

Children's Worlds pilot study, 2011-12. Aged around 12 years old. Scope: 11 countries (regions within some countries) as shown. Sample: 16,903 children.

How do girls compare with boys?

We noticed some important gender differences. Girls tend to be a little happier with school than boys, but much less happy with their appearance - being twice as likely as boys to be unhappy with the way they look. There has also been a sharp fall in girls' happiness with their friends since 2008, and girls are less likely to be happy about the future, or say 'I like being the way I am'.

Gender differences for The Good Childhood Index

Children's Worlds pilot study, 2011-12. Aged around 12 years old. Scope: 11 countries (regions within some countries) as shown. Sample: 16,903 children.

Guys go on about thigh gaps, but you can be skinny and not have one so it's hard.

Girl, Year 8

Don't worry about my appearance because I'm happy as I look and I think that men shouldn't spend that amount of time on their hair, I haven't brushed mine in 15 years.

Boy, Year 10

What other variations did we notice?

Our research also shows that:

  • Children's well-being varies with age, with children aged around 14 and 15 tending to have the lowest well-being.
  • In the UK, children in England have the lowest subjective well-being while children in Northern Ireland have the highest.
  • Children in households living in poverty (less than 60% of the average income) tend to have slightly lower well-being than those not living in poverty.
  • Children living in families where no-one is in paid work also tend to have lower than average well-being.