In Brief

Britain home to the ‘unhappiest teenagers in Europe’ - but why?

Charity says ‘modern life’ and ‘exam pressure’ is driving down life satisfaction

A fear of failure and a lack of purpose means Britain’s teenagers are among the unhappiest in Europe, it has been revealed. 

More than a third of 15-year-olds scored low on life satisfaction in a survey by the Children’s Society, a charity that supports vulnerable youngsters in England and Wales. 

The charity’s annual Good Childhood study found that children in England and Wales ranked last out of 24 European nations for sense of purpose, with 43% saying their life “lacked clear meaning”, says the Daily Mail.

The report describes a large drop in “average happiness” among ten to 15-year-olds. 

“Between 2009 and 2017 the number unhappy with their friends nearly doubled from 1.9% to 3.5%,” says the Mail. And more than 130,000 said they had “no close friends to talk to if they were in trouble”.

Children’s Society chief executive Mark Russell said “modern life has been chipping away at our children’s happiness during the last decade”. He added: “We must listen to children’s voices and work with them to shape changes in schools, communities and society.”

Policy manager Richard Crellin attributed the drop to the “significant amounts of pressure [put] on our children to succeed, especially at school”.

“Good exam results are seen as the key to future success and often prosperity, so children feel incredibly anxious about what will happen if they don’t do well,” he said. “Our previous research has found this fear of failure is much worse amongst children living in poverty.”

Between 2015 and 2018, the UK had the “largest increase in relative child poverty [in Europe] - around 4 percentage points, while average levels of child poverty fell by around 2 percentage points across the 24 countries”, according to The Guardian.

The report also found that girls were unhappier than boys “with almost a quarter of 15-year-olds girls struggling with their wellbeing”, the paper adds.

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