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Young People’s Well-being overview: 2015

Latest data shows changes in young people’s well-being

There were around 7.5 million young people aged 16 to 24 in the UK in 2014, according to ONS mid-year population estimates. This summary highlights some of the latest findings for young people’s well-being, which builds on earlier analysis of the well-being measures (Exploring the well-being of young people in the UK, 2014). It focuses on young people’s views of their health and income. The latest data for the full set of 28 measures can be found in our reference tables (640 Kb Excel sheet) .

Young people's personal well-being has improved over time

In 2014 to 2015, most young people were happy with their lives, with approximately three-quarters of young people having high or very high personal well-being1. The proportion of young people reporting high or very high life satisfaction increased from 79.3% in 2011 to 2012 to 82.9% in 2014 to 2015, while the proportion  reporting a high or very high sense that the things they do are worthwhile increased from 77.3% to 81.4% over the same period. Similarly, the proportion of young people who reported that their happiness yesterday was high or very high increased to 73.4% in 2014 to 2015, compared with 71.0% in 2011 to 2012. There were two-thirds (66.2%) of young people who reported low or very low levels of anxiety in 2014 to 2015, up from 63.3% in 2011 to 2012, but 18.0% reported high levels of anxiety.

Figure 1: Young people’s personal well-being proportions, 2014 to 2015

United Kingdom

Figure 1: Young people’s personal well-being proportions, 2014 to 2015
Source: Annual Population Survey (APS) - Office for National Statistics


  1. Young people aged 16 to 24 years.
  2. For Life satisfaction, Worthwhile, and Happiness, low is a score of 0-4 out of 10; medium, 5-6; high, 7-8; very high 9-10.
  3. For Anxiety, very low is a score of 0-1 out of 10; low, 2-3; medium, 4-5; high, 6-10.

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The number of young people who are unemployed, NEET2 and struggling to get by financially has decreased over time

Unemployment has been shown to be strongly associated with how people rate their personal well-being. (What matters most to personal well-being?). The unemployment rate3 for young people has decreased from 19.6% in 2012 to 14.1% in 2015; over the same period, the proportion of young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) has decreased from around 16.2% to 12.7%.

Similarly, the proportion of young people who were finding it quite or very difficult to manage financially4 declined from around 15.4% in 2009 to 2010 to 9.7% in 2012 to 2013. These findings reflect national trends in labour market changes and personal well-being. (Has personal well-being improved for people in and out of work?)

Young people's satisfaction with their health has fallen over time

Self-reported health has been identified as the most important factor associated with subjective well-being (What matters most to personal well-being?).

In 2009 to 2010, three-quarters (74.6%) of 16 to 24 year olds were relatively satisfied with their overall health, whereas in 2012 to 2013, only around two-thirds (65.1%) reported being somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with their health. Young men were more likely to be relatively satisfied with their health5 than young women in 2012 to 2013, (68.0% report being satisfied compared to 61.0% of women).

Positive mental well-being can affect a person’s emotional and psychological development in both the immediate and longer-term. It is measured using a 7 question survey6, each with a score between 1 and 5, giving a total score of between 7 and 35. Overall, young people’s mental well-being has worsened between 2009 to 2010 and 2012 to 2013 (from 25.0 out of 35 to 24.2 out of 35). Young men have higher mental well-being (24.6 out of 35) than young women (23.8 out of 35).


  1. Adults aged 16 to 24, were asked: “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?”, “Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?”, “Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?” and “Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?” 0 is “not at all” and 10 is  “completely”. 

  2. Not in employment, education or training.

  3. The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed people (aged 18 to 24) divided by the economically active population (aged 18 to 24).

  4. Adults aged 16 to 24, were asked to rate how they were coping financially on a 5-point scale ranging from "finding it very difficult" to "living comfortably".

  5. Adults aged between 16 and 24, were asked to rate their satisfaction with their general health on a 7-point scale from “completely dissatisfied” to “completely satisfied”. Responses for somewhat, mostly and completely satisfied are used as the measure.

  6. The population mental well-being (SWEMWBs) measure was developed to capture a broad concept of positive mental well-being, including psychological functioning and affective emotional aspects of well-being. Adults aged 16 to 24, were asked to complete a 7 question survey, each response is given a score of between 1 and 5, resulting in a total score of between 7 and 35.

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Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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