Children's mental health charity Place2Be found that 56% of children and young people say they worry “all the time” about at least one thing to do with their school life, home life, or themselves**.
We notice that a lack of sleep can affect a child’s concentration, cognitive functions and ability to access the curriculum.
Sleep and "worrying"
Children and young people who usually get less than the recommended 9 hours sleep on a school night are more likely to feel that worries get in the way of school work (32% vs 22%).
Those getting less sleep are also less able to cope with worries, saying they often don’t know what to do when they’re worried (22% vs 18%) and that once they start worrying, they cannot stop (36% vs 28%).
While most children say they get to sleep within 30 minutes of going to bed, for 20% it takes between one and two hours before they doze off and 8% take over two hours.
Place2Be surveyed 975 children and young people* in Year 6 and Year 9 across 24 primary and secondary schools they work with in England, Scotland, and Wales. Regardless of the age of the child, there was a link between reduced sleep and increased levels of worry.
The most common concerns** among the respondents are: taking tests/exams (50%); friends (49%); family (42%); not doing well at school (42%); and bad things happening in the world (39%).
Breaking the research down by age, 13-14 year olds are more likely than 10-11 year olds to worry about taking tests/exams (54% vs 39%); the way they look (36% vs 17%); their friends (54% vs 39%); and doing well in school (48% vs 33%).
Whereas, 10-11 year olds are more likely than 13-14 year olds to worry about bad things happening in the world (34% vs 27%).
Mental health and wellbeing in children
Launching Children’s Mental Health Week, Catherine Roche, CEO of Place2Be, says: “At least three children in every class have a diagnosable mental health issue, and many more worry about everyday concerns from exams to family life. Place2Be is supporting teachers and parents with advice on how sensible sleep habits, eating well and exercise help children cope with daily worries.
However, further research is needed to explore if children are lacking sleep because they worry, or worry because they aren’t getting enough sleep.”
Susan Lawrence, Headteacher at St Mary’s School in Brent, which works with Place2Be, says: “We notice that a lack of sleep can affect a child’s concentration, cognitive functions and ability to access the curriculum. As teachers we see a struggle to retain or process information which results in increased levels of anxiety and worry that will inevitably impact on their emotional health and well-being.”
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Strategies for coping with worry
The children and young people surveyed have many strategies for coping when they are worried. Most commonly, they talk to someone in their family (60%), spend time on their own (49%) or watch TV/films (49%).
The survey results revealed some marked differences between boys and girls across the age groups:
- Girls are more likely to read (47% vs. 33%) and listen to music (50% vs 42%), whereas boys are more likely to spent time on the computer / playing computer games (58% vs. 30%) and exercise (46% vs 26%)
- Secondary age pupils are more likely than primary pupils to use social media (53% vs 33%) or listen to music (61% vs 43%)
Children's mental health week
The research is being published to mark the start of Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 (4-10 February) with this year’s theme of Healthy: Inside and Out. Place2Be is encouraging everyone to think about the simple things we can do to improve our physical and mental wellbeing.
Place2Be’s patron, the Duchess of Cambridge, will be visiting one of our partner schools during Children’s Mental Health Week 4 – 10 February 2019.
Resources for schools, young people and parents can be found at: https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/
*Total sample size was 975 children aged 10-11 (Year 6 / P7) and 180 young people aged 13-15 (Year 6 / S3). 24 Primary Schools and 6 secondary schools were invited to take part and responses were gathered from 21 primary and 3 secondary schools who work with Place2Be in England, Scotland and Wales. 50% of respondents were male and 44% were female. 5% preferred not to say. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th November and 30 November 2018. The survey was carried out online and on paper.
**Children and young people were asked “how often do any of these things worry you?” The percentages of children’s top worries are based on those who said ‘all the time’ or ‘a lot’.