Charlotte Todd – Swansea University
Good emotional health as a child lays the foundation for good life satisfaction in adulthood. However, in the UK children and young people’s happiness with their life is now at its lowest since 2010.
Using results collected through HAPPEN whereby children aged 8-11 were asked what they would change to improve their health and well-being, the research team could begin to find answers as to why and what would could be done to make children healthier and happier.
The top 4 suggestions from children were:
- Give us more places to play
- Create local facilities where we can be active
- Clean up the streets
- Make roads safer
The research results have been widely disseminated through the media, in conferences, to government ministers, and to local authority play sufficiency assessment teams.
Children are under a huge amount of pressure to achieve literacy and numeracy targets, and live in a world focused upon test after test. This means that play is becoming de-prioritised, particularly at the latter stages of primary school – despite it being vital for learning a range of well-being skills that cannot be taught.
By acting on the children’s suggestions, we can begin to reverse the trend of declining life satisfaction. However, the research team feel that for real inroads to be made in addressing this issue, the way we, as a society, construct and value childhood needs addressing too. We need to place higher value on child well-being, listen more closely to children, and look beyond the current measurements on which young people are so narrowly judged.