Britain's Children: Unhealthy and Unloved

14th February 2007
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In a damning indictment of our current way of life the UK and US have been ranked the worst of 21 'Advanced Nations' for children to grow up in by UNICEF. The UK came last.
The report by the United Nations Children's Fund is the most comprehensive of its type. It claimed that children in the UK have worse relationships with their parents, are at greater risk from alcohol, drugs, unsafe sex and teenage pregnancy and suffer greater poverty than those of any other wealthy country.

Country rankings according to child wellbeing

The report puts northern European countries and Spain at the top of the table with France coming 11th and Germany 16th.

The UK scored particularly poorly in the area of relationships, ranking last in both 'parental relationships' and 'friendships'.

Country rating above or below OECD average of 100 for children's relationship with family and peers

The methodology of producing such assessments is questionable and UNICEF cautions that a lack of detailed comparative data means that this report must be seen as an initial step to judging child wellbeing. However, the results remain damning.

Relationships with parents and friends were measured by asking children if they felt loved by their parents and if they felt able to talk to them. 11, 13, and 15 year olds were asked if they found their friends 'kind and helpful'.

Only 65% of children in the UK said that their parents loved and cared for them and only 40% found their peers kind and helpful.

Even more worrying results were presented for UK children's exposure to drugs, drink and sex.

Country ranking for 'behaviour and risks' scaled against OECD average of 100

In the UK over 30% of 11, 13 and 15 year olds report having been drunk more than once. 35% have used drugs. Nearly 45% of them have been in a fight in the last 12 months.

Over 40% of 15 year olds have had sex.

What do the kids think?

When the children were asked to explain how they felt about their overall wellbeing, health and education, over 20% considered their health to be 'fair to poor' and only 17% liked school. About the same amount as Russia.

The importance of children to a nation's future needs no explanation. There can be few more devastating testaments to the failure of our society and culture than a generation of unloved, unhealthy, children bent on self-destruction.

To read Rachel Ragg's article on the institutional and medical oppression of children click here.

To read Pat Thomas's article on obesity and health click here.

To read Pat Thomas's article on nutrition and behaviour click here.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist February 2007

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