The Good Childhood Report found that children’s wellbeing is down on figures recorded in 2008, with 15 per cent of 14-15 year olds reporting the lowest levels of self-satisfaction.
The findings follow on from a period of improvement stretching back to 1994. This trend is somewhat reflected in the most recent survey, with four-fifths of children and young people said to be “flourishing” – that is, scoring on or above the midpoint on questions in the survey related to satisfaction and psychological wellbeing. However, one in 10 scored below the midpoint on these questions. The charity warned that such findings should not be dismissed as just teenage angst.
The survey quizzed 42,000 eight-17-year-olds. It found that that the results mirrored previous findings, where wellbeing dropped between the ages of eight and 15, before picking up again in 16-17-year-olds.
The researchers said: "Appearance seems to be an aspect of life that is a particular issue for children in their early teenage years. There is a large drop in happiness with appearance between the ages of eight and 12, which continues at a low level for 13, 14 and 15-year-olds, and then increases again at 16 and 17 years old."
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children's Society, said: “The wellbeing of our future generation in the UK is critical, so it is incredibly worrying that any improvements this country has seen in children's wellbeing 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 well-being 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.”
Barbara McIntosh, head of Children and Young People’s Programmes at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “The stark reality that children and young people’s mental health is declining is yet another indicator that services are falling short of supporting those in need.
“We know that half of all adults with long-term mental health problems will have experienced their first symptoms before the age of 14 (Department of Health, 2011), therefore it is essential that early intervention practices are invested in to bring about mentally healthy futures for children and young people.
“Not only this, but schools must recognise their important role in supporting all pupil’s emotional wellbeing, as more vulnerable children without a diagnosed mental health problem are at risk of missing out on the support they need.”