Having enough money in the future is top worry for over two million young people | The Good Childhood Report 2023

The Children's Society
6 min readSep 20, 2023

An estimated two million UK young people signal their top worry for the future as having enough money, reveals the latest research by The Children’s Society (1).

In a startling new turn of events, young people’s concerns about the environment and crime have been eclipsed by worry over rising prices (2).

The charity’s most recent Good Childhood Report, a yearly assessment of children’s wellbeing in the UK, finds that one in ten children and young people aged 10 to 17 are unhappy with their lives (3) and an even larger proportion have a gloomy outlook on society. A staggering 43% — or an estimated 2.7 million — do not feel positive about the country’s future, with 45% — or an estimated 2.8 million — feeling the same about the future of the world at large (4).

In another poignant finding, less than half (47%) of the children in secondary school and above felt safe being out in their local area at night in 2023, with a larger proportion of girls than boys feeling unsafe (5).

Highlighting an even graver concern, the report indicates that children aged 10 to 15 were less satisfied with their lives in 2020–21, the latest data available, than when the results were first collected in 2009–10. In 2020–21, children’s average scores for happiness with their life as a whole, friends, appearance, school, and schoolwork were all significantly lower than when the survey began, with family being the only aspect of life where there had been no significant change in children’s average happiness score (6).

Girls seem to be bearing the brunt, with their happiness scores on the same six measures all significantly lower in 2020–21 than in 2009–10. The survey further reveals an ongoing trend: girls continue to be significantly less happy with their appearance than boys (7).

A young person is sitting outside in front of an apartment building. They are Asian and have light skin and long, dark hair tied into a ponytail. They are wearing a brown bomber jacket, and are looking off into the distance with their chin resting on their fingers.

Interestingly, in 2023, 15-year-olds were more likely than children of other ages to be unhappy with how they use their time, their appearance, school, and the future. The transitional nature of mid-teen years is thought to be the culprit. Conversely, those aged 16 and 17, on the brink of adulthood, were less likely to have low wellbeing on these four measures, possibly due to increased control over their identities and lives (8).

Mark Russell, CEO of The Children’s Society, stated: “The last few years have been extremely tough and life is just too hard for too many children. It is a national scandal that children’s happiness continues to slide. It is really shocking that almost half of all young people feel gloomy about the state of our world, because we know they feel deeply about the future and have a deep sense of justice.”

He emphasised, “The need for improving children’s wellbeing is urgent. We are calling for children to be protected from the rising cost of living by renewing investment in social security for children through an increase to child benefits and we also need stronger Cabinet level representation for children to ensure their views are heard at the highest level of decision making.

“We need real leadership from government to turn this around. This should include a minister or a pledge from the Prime Minister to make children a priority with an accompanying strategy so we can invest in children and build hope and security for their futures.”

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Notes to Editor

An embargoed summary of the Good Childhood Report 2023 is available here. Please note the summary report is embargoed until 00:01 Wednesday 20th September 2023. The full report is available on request.

An interactive version of the Good Childhood Report 2023 to link to in your news stories will be available via this link from 00:01 Wednesday 20 September. The link will not work until then — it will direct you to the previous year’s Good Childhood Report.

The Children’s Society fights for the hope and happiness of children and young people when it’s threatened by abuse, exploitation and neglect. It sees the hope and courage in young people every day and is inspired to support them through their most serious life challenges.

(1) Findings from The Children’s Society’s 2023 household survey, which is a key data source for The Good Childhood Report. The most recent survey was undertaken between May and June 2023, and collected responses from a sample of over 2,000 children (aged 10 to 17) and their parent or carer from across the UK. Having enough money was the top worry for children and young people aged 10 to 17 who responded to The Children’s Society’s annual household survey in May to June this year, from a list of seven issues relevant to their future. Just under 37% of children and young people were either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ worried about having enough money in their own future, which, rounded down to the nearest thousand, corresponds to (an estimated) 2,339,000 young people across the UK. This estimate was derived by applying the proportion of children found to be ‘very’ or ‘quite’ worried about having enough money in the future (37%) in The Children’s Society’s 2023 survey to the most recent population estimates of children aged 10 to 17 in the UK, which are for mid-2021 (ONS, 2022).

(2) Findings from The Children’s Society’s 2023 household survey. For the first time, children and young people aged 10 to 17 were most concerned about rising prices (a new item in this year’s survey) than about the environment, which was children and young people’s top worry from a list of broader societal issues in last year’s survey.

(3) Findings from The Children’s Society’s 2023 household survey. 10% of children and young people aged 10 to 17 scored below the midpoint on a multi-item measure of overall life satisfaction, and can therefore be considered to have low overall wellbeing.

(4) Findings from The Children’s Society’s 2023 household survey. Less than four in ten children and young people aged 10 to 17 felt positive (either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ positive) about the future of the country or the world (38% and 36% respectively), with 43% — the equivalent of 2,719,000 (rounded down to the nearest thousand) young people — of those who responded to our survey not feeling positive (responding either ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ positive) about the future of country, and 45% — the equivalent of 2,845,000 (rounded down to nearest thousand) young people — not feeling positive about the future of the world. It is important to note that 19% of children and young people responded ‘not sure’ / ‘prefer not to say’ to each of these two questions. These estimates were derived by applying the proportions of children who felt ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ positive about the future of the country (43%) and the future of the world (45%) in The Children’s Society’s 2023 survey to the most recent population estimates of children aged 10 to 17 in the UK, which are for mid-2021 (ONS, 2022).

(5) Findings from The Children’s Society’s 2023 household survey. As well as a larger proportion of females than males, a higher proportion of children and young people with low wellbeing and those who perceived their family not to be well off also disagreed when asked whether they felt safe in their local area at night. In secondary school and above — relates to children and young people in year 7 and above, up to (and including) age 17.

(6) Findings from the Understanding Society survey, which is a key source for the report. Understanding Society is a longitudinal survey, conducted by the University of Essex, covering a large representative sample of households in the UK. The most recent survey data available are for 2020–21 and include the first full year of data collected during Covid-19-related restrictions. In 2020–21, the youth survey was completed by 1,663 children aged 10 to 15 in the UK. The Understanding Society survey measures children’s happiness with their life as a whole and with five specific aspects of life: family, friends, appearance, school, and schoolwork. Average scores refers to mean scores.

(7) Findings from Findings from the Understanding Society survey. Girls (aged 10 to 15) were significantly less happy with their appearance than boys in all survey waves, from the start of the survey in 2009–10 up until the latest for which data are available in 2020–21. The six happiness measures are life as a whole, family, friends, appearance, school, and schoolwork.

(8) Findings from The Children’s Society’s 2023 household survey (of children and young people aged 10 to 17). Low wellbeing with time use, appearance, school, and the future was highest amongst 15 year olds, with younger and older children less likely to have low wellbeing on these four measures.

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The Children's Society

Supporting young people to build hope for their futures.