Don’t dismiss teenagers’ unhappiness, report warns

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British youngsters are becoming increasingly unhappy – and their lower well-being should not be dismissed as “teen grumpiness”, the Children’s Society warns today.

Younger teenagers are the worst affected, according to the charity, which works to help and protect children.

The Good Childhood Report 2013 says that this group are less likely to be happy about school, their appearance and the amount of choice and freedom they are given.

Comparing its results to previous surveys, the Children’s Society said that, while for children of all ages there had been a period of rising well-being from 1994 to 2008, this had started to stall and could be declining in more recent years.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of charity, said: “The well-being of our future generation in the UK is critical. So it is incredibly worrying that any improvements this country has seen in children’s well-being over the last two decades appear to have stalled.

“These startling findings show that we should be paying particular attention to improving the happiness of this country’s teenagers.

“These findings clearly show that we can’t simply dismiss their low wellbeing as inevitable ‘teen grumpiness’.

“They are facing very real problems we can all work to solve, such as not feeling safe at home, being exposed to family conflict or being bullied.”

He added that it was vital that all adults took seriously what children and teenagers were telling them.

The report is based on a survey of 42,000 children between the ages of eight and 17.

The charity said the results of the report showed those aged 14 and 15 had the lowest life satisfaction of all children.

The report did not contain a regional breakdown of the results, as the figures varied little across the country.

But while the life satisfaction has declined for those aged eight to 15, the report said that new findings for 16- and 17-year-olds shows that this trend reversed for the likes of life satisfaction, and psychological well-being.

It also said that around four fifths of children could be described as “flourishing”.

Overall, though, the report concludes that at any one time, about 10 per cent of children could be said to have low well-being.

It describes these young people as being “several times more likely than children with average to high well-being to experience family conflict, bullying, problems in their friendships and other negative experiences.”

Emma-Jane Cross, founder and chief executive of MindFull, the mental health charity for children and young people, said: “Far too often, people overlook teenage wellbeing and mental health issues because they put the symptoms down to angst or moodiness.

“This damaging attitude can no longer continue when so many are desperately unhappy and struggling with serious 
issues, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

“Instead of a nation where young people are supported to be healthy, happy and fulfilled, we have a culture of stigma, 
misunderstanding and ignorance. Our young people deserve better.”

Lucie Russell, director of campaigns and policy at well-being and mental health charity YoungMinds, said: “These findings must not be dismissed as simply an inevitable part of growing up.

“Last year our parents’ helpline received a record number of calls from parents concerned about the mental health or wellbeing of their child. We must take notice of these signs and act, if we are not to see children increasingly struggling to cope.”