A new report commissioned by the Department of Health has sought to identify factors that predict well-being throughout people’s lives. Data about well-being in early childhood was taken from questions asked to seven-year-olds as part of the Millennium Cohort Study. Findings include that children tend to have higher levels of well-being when they have good social relationships with family and friends, do things that they find enjoyable, experience moderation in activities that are potentially harmful to health, and have parents who do not shout or smack them. The authors suggest that this supports the current emphasis on extending the reach of parenting programmes and anti-bullying initiatives. Schools may also have a role to play in promoting positive health behaviours.
Information on teenagers was taken from the “Understanding Society” annual longitudinal survey. The findings suggest that subjective well-being declines steeply with age at this stage of life, with only 8% of 15-year-olds having high well-being compared to 24% of 11-year-olds. Substance use and excessive computer gaming become more common, and both are associated with lower levels of well-being. As with younger children, social relations are influential. A secure environment at school – free from bullying and classroom disruption – was linked to well-being in teenagers, as was feeling supported at home and sharing family meals. The report does not imply causation. For example, it is not possible to tell whether adolescents with low well-being play computer games, or whether playing computer games results in low well-being.
Source: Predicting Wellbeing (2013), NatCen Social Research.