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Supporting children and young people's wellbeing
Supporting children and young people's wellbeing

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1 Wellbeing in today’s society

During the last decade a number of media reports, newspaper articles and debates on social media have shared alarming statistics, which suggest that children and young people in the United Kingdom are increasingly unhappy and that their wellbeing is potentially at risk. An article published in The Guardian (Henley, 2012) suggested that children and young people in the UK are some of the unhappiest in the industrialised world.

Activity 1 Is the wellbeing of children and young people in the UK in crisis?

Timing: Allow about 45 minutes

Read the article ‘Why are British children so unhappy?’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]  (Henley, 2012), bearing in mind the following questions:

  1. In what ways does this article define or discuss wellbeing?
  2. Do you think wellbeing is different from happiness?
  3. Do you feel this article provides an accurate representation of children and young people’s lives today?
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The newspaper article uses the terms ‘wellbeing’ and ‘happiness’ interchangeably to describe children and young people’s experiences in the UK during the twenty-first century – you will consider the differences between these two terms in a later activity. It draws on a range of reports to suggest that, relative to other countries, children and young people in the UK have a low sense of wellbeing. The different ways in which the article refers to wellbeing and how it might be measured will be discussed further in this course.

Whether you felt this was a fair representation of the UK might depend on your own experiences. There are frequent media reports claiming the mental or physical health of children and young people today is getting worse and their wellbeing is in crisis but they are not always well-substantiated.

The article refers to Unicef research in 2007 and 2011, but there is in fact a newer report (Unicef, 2013) that put the UK sixteenth out of twenty-one, rather than twenty-first. Does this change your views in this discussion?