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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 (Weaver, 2019) 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 ‘Children in the UK the least happy they have been in a decade says report’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]  (Weaver, 2019), 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 longitudinal research so provides an insight into changes across time. These and alternative measures of wellbeing will be discussed further in this course.

Whether you felt this was a fair representation of the UK might depend on your own experiences and those of young people you know. 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. We can also look at international comparisons which are periodically published by UNICEF (see for example this report where the UK appears in 27th place in a league table of child wellbeing outcomes.

This article was of course written just before the COVID-19 health pandemic which will also have had an effect on some young people’s mental health.