This article is published as part of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Measuring National Well-being Programme and aims to examine some aspects of well-being for young people aged 16 to 24. The programme aims to produce accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation - how the United Kingdom as a whole is doing. In addition to the set of experimental domains and measures, a series of articles have been published which aim to explore in some detail the different domains that are considered important for the measurement of National Well-being.
The currently proposed ten Measuring National Well-being domains and the measures within them which are proposed for measuring national well-being are of relevance to young people just as they are to other age groups (these can be seen in the appendix). This article does not cover all these domains for young people but concentrates on specific areas within three domains and, where possible, what young people think and feel about their lives in relation to them. The three domains are ‘Where we live’, ‘What we do’ and ‘Individual well-being’. More information about these domains and others has been published in articles which can be found on the National Well-being publications page.
As young people aged 16-24 make their transition into adulthood there are many factors that can have a significant impact on their overall well-being. These include:
That a relatively high proportion of young people remain living in the parental home, although the proportion is not increasing over time.
The evidence that more young people are students now than in the past and a smaller proportion are economically active.
The use of leisure time for sport and cultural activities.
This article reports that, on average, young people are more likely than other age groups to be highly satisfied with their lives and the use of their leisure time. They are also more likely to be optimistic about the future.
Further information about other areas of importance to young people can be found in previously published analyses of the domains proposed for Measuring National Well-being. In particular, more detail of levels of educational attainment, access to higher education, and those young people not in education, employment or training can be found in the analysis of ‘Education and skills’.
In the UK, in 2012, there were more men than women aged 16-24 living with their parents at 69 per cent and 57 per cent respectively.
There has been a decrease between 2002 and 2012 in the percentage of young people who were active in the labour market: from 54 per cent to 37 per cent for those aged 16 to 17 and from 75 per cent to 72 per cent of those aged 18-24.
The unemployment rate for those aged 16 or 17 has increased from 19 per cent in 2002 to 37 per cent in 2012: over the same time period the rate for 18-24 year olds increased from 11 per cent to 20 per cent.
In 2012 a smaller percentage of those in full-time education were also in employment than in 2002 in both the 16-17 and 18-24 age groups.
Around three quarters of 16-17 year olds and 18-19 year olds (77 per cent and 72 per cent respectively) in Great Britain in 2011/12 reported medium to high levels of satisfaction with the amount of time to do the things they like, compared with just over half (55 per cent) of 20-24 year olds.
There was a reduction in participation in moderate intensity sport by 16-19 year olds in England between 2005/06 and 2011/12: for example, 63 per cent of 16-19 year olds participated in sport once a week in 2011/12 compared with 67 per cent in 2005/06.
In 2012 in England there was a significant increase (6.6 percentage points) in young adults who visited a museum or gallery compared with a year earlier.
Between 2005/06 and 2011/12 in England there was an increase of 3.6 percentage points in the number of 16-24 year olds who had volunteered in the last twelve months.
In 2012 in the UK, young people aged 16-24 rated their satisfaction with their lives at a higher level than the average for all ages.
Highest ratings for life satisfaction were in the 16-17 and 18-19 age groups with slightly lower ratings for those in their twenties: a similar pattern for the age groups emerges in response to questions about how worthwhile the things in their lives are and how happy they were yesterday.
Young people in the UK in 2012 reported the lowest levels of anxiety for the previous day compared with the average for all other age groups.
In 2012 young people in Great Britain reported that they were very optimistic about the next 12 months: between 80 and 85 per cent reported a medium to high level of optimism.
Where you live can have a significant impact on your well-being. For young people leaving the parental home, it enables them to practise essential life skills, gain confidence and become independent, all of which mark the transition into adulthood contributing to a sense of worth and well-being. However, the transition to independent living has become more protracted and more diverse than in previous generations. This section looks at some of the contributing socio-economic and health factors of young people who remain in the parental home.
There are many factors that contribute to young people living with a parent or parents such as:
The need for support from their parents while in education.
The financial security of incurring less debt and having the opportunity to save money.
Support when out of work or before entering the labour market: 34 per cent of those aged 16-24 living with parents in 2011 were economically inactive (not in employment or actively looking for a job).
Additional help when in work, as young people have lower earnings at around 42 per cent less than the rest of the workforce aged 25 and above.
The availability and affordability of separate housing for those trying to set up home: Shelter reported that there is currently a shortage of affordable housing, and the public sector deficit means that there has been a reduction in funding for new affordable housing (Shelter, 2011).
Some young people living with parents have dependent children of their own and need support to look after them.
Unlike previous generations young people’s experiences are very different and they are more subject to ‘boomeranging’ between leaving home and independence (Kneale et al, 2010 cited Joseph Rowntree, 2010). Recent estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show that 4.6 million, or 63 per cent of all those aged 16-24 were living in the parental home at the time of the survey in 2012.
Figure 1 shows that there was no change in the percentage of the overall 16-24 age band living in the parental home, however, there had been slight increases for those in their twenties between 2004 and 2012. In 2012, there were more young men than young women living in the parental home, at 69 per cent and 57 per cent respectively (ONS, 2012).
Those aged 16 and 17 are most likely to remain living in the parental home which is understandable as many are still studying and need the support of their parents to continue education. More than 90 per cent of both men and women aged 16-17 were living with their parents. A higher percentage of men (82 per cent) than women (72 per cent) lived with parents at the age of 18 and 19, and likewise for the 20-24 year old men (56 per cent) and women (39 per cent).
The percentage of both men and women living at home declines steadily with age. As individuals get older they are more likely to move away from their parental home as their average earnings increase and there is a higher likelihood of living with a partner: having both a higher income and a partner make moving out of the parental home more likely and more affordable. The difference between the sexes may in part be explained by women being more likely to participate in higher education and therefore need to move away from the parental home, and by women on average forming partnerships at a younger age than men.
There are some differences between the regions and countries of the UK in the percentage of those aged 16-24 who are living in the parental home. In 2012 there was a 16 percentage point difference between the lowest in the Yorkshire and the Humber at 56 per cent and the highest in Northern Ireland at 72 per cent. Between 2004 and 2012 there have been slight decreases in the percentage of those living in the parental home in the northern regions and slight increases for those living further south.
Poor physical or mental health may be a contributing factor to young people continuing to live in the parental home. According to LFS (2012) there were about 900,000 young people aged 16-24 who were living with their parents and reporting a health problem in 2012. Chest and breathing problems were the most common health problem that was reported, with about one in twenty of all those still living at home and nearly a quarter of all those with a health problem reporting this condition. The next most common health problems were learning difficulties and other problems which included some disabilities; both these were reported by about one in forty of those with a health problem.
At a time when young people are making the transition into adulthood, some young people have children of their own and pressures of parenthood may have a significant impact on their well-being. Some young people continue to live in the parental home while others live in their own residence. Some are lone parents. while others have partners.
The total number of lone parents is estimated to be nearly 2 million in 2012. Figure 2 shows that the estimated number of lone parents aged 16-24 has varied between 2004 and 2012, but has always been over 200,000. In 2012, 75 per cent of lone parents in the 16-24 age group have one child and 25 per cent reported to have two children or more. Estimates show that there is slight variation from year to year in the numbers with one child but the pattern remains consistent. The number that have two or more children has remained very similar between 2004 and 2012.
Previous research has consistently shown that unemployment has a negative effect on subjective well-being (ONS, 2012a).
Up to the age of 16 individuals are required to be in full-time education. After this age some stay in education while others may be active in the labour market. Recent data from the Labour Force Survey (May-July 2012) shows about 37 per cent of those aged 16 or 17 and 72 per cent of those aged 18-24 were economically active (that is, in employment or actively looking for a job). This is a decrease when compared with ten years earlier (May-July 2002) when the rates were 54 and 75 per cent respectively (ONS 2012).
For all age groups there have been increases in the unemployment rate since 2008. In 2002, the rate for those aged 16-17 was 4.9 times that for those aged 25-64; by 2007 it had risen to 7.8 times and by 2012 it had decreased to 5.7 times as much. Comparing the rates for those aged 18-24, in 2002 the unemployment was 2.7 times that for those aged 25-64, by 2007 it had risen to 3.4 times and by 2012 the rate had decreased to 3.3 times as much (Figure 3).
There are also differences between the rates of employment between age groups. There was a considerable reduction in the percentage of those aged 16 or 17 who were in employment from over 43 per cent in 2002, to about 24 per cent in 2012. Over the same period the percentage of those aged 16 or 17 who were unemployed (that is those who were economically active and also seeking employment) had nearly doubled from about 19 per cent to 37 per cent. For those aged 18 to 24 the change in the employment rate was less marked: from about 67 per cent in 2002 to about 58 per cent in 2012. The unemployment rate had increased over this time period from nearly 11 per cent to just less than 20 per cent of the economically active (Table 1).
Many of those who either had or were looking for a job were also in full-time education and, therefore, would be in or seeking part-time employment. Between 2002 and 2012 LFS estimates showed there had been an increase in the proportion of those who were in full-time education: from 73 per cent in 2002, to 83 per cent in 2012 for those aged 16- 17 and from 26 per cent in 2002 to 31 per cent in 2012 for those aged 18-24.
There is a difference between these age groups in the rates of employment and unemployment for those who were in full-time education and those who were not. Those in full-time education in both younger age groups were more likely to be employed in 2002 than in 2012, and less likely to be unemployed in 2002 than in 2012. Employment rates for those in full-time education were 38 per cent of those aged 16 or 17 in 2002, compared with 21 per cent in 2012 and 41per cent of those aged 18-24 in 2002 compared with 35 per cent in 2012 . Unemployment rates for those in full-time education were 14 per cent of those aged 16 or 17 in 2002 compared with 35 per cent in 2012 and 11 per cent of those aged 18-24 in 2002 compared with 20 per cent in 2012.
Those not in full-time education in both younger age groups were more likely to be employed in 2002 than in 2012 and less likely to be unemployed in 2002 than in 2012. Unemployment rates for those not in full-time education were 57per cent of those aged 16 or 17 in 2002 compared with 36 per cent in 2012 and 77 per cent of those aged 18-24 in 2002 compared with 68 per cent in 2012 . Unemployment rates for those not in full-time education were 27 per cent of those aged 16 or 17 in 2002 compared with 40 per cent in 2012 and 11per cent of those aged 18-24 in 2002 compared with 19 per cent in 2012.
|In full-time education (FTE)||Not in full-time education (FTE)1||All|
|Economically inactive 2002||55.3||54.4||21.0||14.4||46.1||24.8|
|Economically inactive 2012||67.4||56.5||39.3||15.3||62.7||28.2|
|Source: Labour Force Survey, Office for National Statistics|
May to July each year seasonally adjusted.
When young people who were economically inactive were asked why they were not looking for a job, nearly eight in ten (78 per cent) said it was because they were a student. This proportion varied by age group with nearly 95 per cent of the economically inactive aged 16 or 17, nearly 86 per cent of those aged 18 or 19 and about 61 per cent of those aged 20-24 giving their reason as being a student (Table 2).
The next most frequent response was that individuals were not looking for a job because they were looking after their family or home. Overall about 12 per cent of the economically inactive aged 16-24 gave this as the reason for not seeking work, with less than one per cent of those aged 16 or 17, about 5 per cent of those aged 18 or 19 and 24 per cent of those aged 20-24. The third and fourth most common reasons were concerned with individuals’ sickness or disability. These also became increasingly more common as age increased.
|Student||Looking after family or home||Long–term sick or disabled||Temporarily sick or injured||Any other reason|
|Total aged 16–24||78.3||11.6||4.4||1.0||4.7|
|Source: Labour Force Survey (LFS) January– December 2011 Office for National Statistics|
The LFS is a household survey of people in the UK. It includes those resident at private addresses, but does not cover most communal establishments.
Figures may not add up to 100 per cent due to rounding.
For more information about the labour market in this age group see:
During the National Debate, leisure time was highlighted as an important factor for individual’s wellbeing. Leisure time (or free time) is considered as a period of time spent doing non-compulsory activities, when people are able to do the things they like according to their preferences and lifestyles. The extent to which young people engage in leisure activities is very important, recent discussions (ONS yet to be published) with young people revealed that they saw leisure time as being part of their identity. They said that:
‘what we do with our time helps to define us’.
Having leisure time is crucial as young people make the transition into adulthood. It is vital for their personal and social development, helps in achieving a balanced and healthy lifestyle and their overall well-being. Studies on participation in leisure activities have shown improvements in self esteem and life satisfaction which help in reducing depression and anxiety and enhance a person’s sense of well-being (Haworth, 2010). This is important as young people mentioned that not having enough leisure time:
‘could make you feel stressed and down’.
Young people who are satisfied with their leisure time are more likely to be well-rounded and content (NZ, 2006).
Satisfaction with the amount of leisure time varies with age. In the opinions survey in Great Britain when respondents were asked if they were satisfied with the amount of time they had to do the things that they like doing a higher proportion of younger and older people reported high levels of satisfaction (ONS 2012b) (Figure 4).
More than three quarters (77 per cent) of those aged 16 or 17 and nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of 18-19 year olds reported medium or high levels of satisfaction with the amount of time to do the things that they like doing (rating their satisfaction at a level of 7-10 on a scale of 0-10 where 0 was not at all and 10 was completely). The over 65’s were the only age group to report higher levels of satisfaction. There was a decrease in reported levels of satisfaction with the amount of time to do the things they like doing for 20-24 year olds with just over half (55 per cent) reporting medium to high levels of satisfaction.
Participation in sport and cultural activities has been shown to be positively associated with better well-being. The Taking Part Survey in England by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) examined engagement in sport and cultural activities.
In the run-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games (between April 2011 to March 2012), estimates of overall participation in sport and active recreation for 16-24 year olds showed that there had been no change since 2005/06. Participation in moderate intensity sport (MIS) was analysed at different levels of frequency: one session in the last four weeks, one session in the last week and three or more sessions in the last week (DCMS, 2012).
However, further analysis showed that in 2010/11 there has been a drop in percentage of 16-19 year olds participating at each of the reported frequencies since 2005/06 but there has been an increase in participation for 20-24 year olds in one or three or more sessions per week between 2005/06 and 2011/12. A new youth sport strategy ‘creating a sporting habit for life’ was launched in January 2012 aimed at promoting sport for young people and DCMS is currently working on adapting measures to be able to consistently track this group.
|1 x 30 moderate intensity sport per week||:||:|
|16-19 year old||62.0||55.4|
|20-24 year old||55.3||56.3|
|3 x 30 moderate intensity sport per week||:||:|
|16-19 year old||39.2||36.6|
|20-24 year old||31.3||34.0|
|Once in the last 4 weeks||:||:|
|16-19 year old||67.0||62.5|
|20-24 year old||59.7||56.9|
|Source: Taking Part Survey (2011/12 quarter 4), Department for Culture, Media and Sport|
Results from the same survey showed that there had been a significant increase in the number of young adults who had visited a museum or gallery in the last year at 44 per cent in 2011/12, an increase of 7 per cent since 2010/11. It was also reported that there has been major investment in museums via the Arts Council’s Renaissance programme in an attempt to increase visitors. Free entry is also an incentive for young people (ACRP).
In the National Debate (407.1 Kb Pdf) , when people were asked ‘what things in life mattered most to them’, personal and cultural activities that included volunteering came high on the list, above income and wealth and the effects of crime. Volunteering gives young people the opportunity to make a difference in the community, to widen their social skills and improve their job prospects (ONS 2011). An evaluation of independent charity ‘v’ found that:
‘volunteering opportunities helped young people to develop ‘soft’ skills linked to well-being, s uch as confidence and self-esteem, raised aspirations, enhanced social skills and networks, amongst others’ (BLF UK)
According to the Taking Part Survey the percentage of young people aged 16-24 who had volunteered in the last 12 months had increased by 3.6 percentage points between 2005/06 and 2011/12. Interestingly, a higher percentage of young people were volunteering compared with any other age group in both 2010/11 and 2011/12, overtaking the percentage of 65-74 year olds who had previously had the highest percentage of volunteers (DCMS 2012).
These findings paint a positive picture of young people’s engagement with volunteering. There are many volunteering projects spread across the UK that encourage young people to actively engage and volunteer, these and the recent ‘London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Maker Programme’ looks set to further inspire a new generation of volunteers.
The Taking Part Survey also asks individuals ‘How happy are you?’ and results showed that there was a significant association between volunteering, sport participation and cultural engagement and positive responses to this question. This lends support to the views that either such activities can have a positive effect on individual’s subjective well-being or that those who report that they are happy are more likely to engage in volunteering, sport and cultural activities (DCMS, 2012).
Leisure time for some young people can mean indulging in risky behaviour such as the use of recreational drugs. The proportion of young people reporting the use of drugs has decreased considerably over the last 15 years. Almost half of young people in 1996 (49 per cent) admitted to using drugs during their lifetime. This included using chemicals such as cannabis and anabolic steroids along with the class A drugs and stimulants such as cocaine and ecstasy. Reported use of these drugs by young people decreased by 8.5 percentage points to 40 per cent in 2010/11 (ONS, 2012c).
The proportion of young people reporting the use of drugs in the last year had also decreased from almost a third to a fifth (30 per cent to 20 per cent) between 1996 and 2010/11. Those who reported frequently taking drugs over the last year decreased by 4 percentage points (from 12 to 7 per cent) between 2002/03 (the first year that this was collected) to 2009/10.
Individual well-being includes individual’s feelings of satisfaction with life, whether they feel their life is worthwhile and their positive and negative emotions on the previous day. All of these things matter a great deal to young people, and in recent discussions young people summed up how important well-being was to them. They said that:
'At the end of the day that’s all that matters, your own well-being'
'It’s your life'
Young people acknowledged that an individual’s well-being could vary considerably amongst different groups of people and how young people view their own well-being can also vary. For some in this group it meant ‘how you feel about yourself and your image:
'Whether you like yourself as a person”..... and your “self image'
'Social status really matters to young people'
'A lot of people only feel about themselves what other people think about them'
Talking about life satisfaction for some, it meant an urge to do better, while for others an aspiration of this kind did not matter. For example:
'I think some people are just satisfied with whatever'
Young people talked a lot about having ‘choice’ and being able to do what they wanted to do, not in an egotistical way but in a way that perhaps suggested that having a particular job might not necessarily make you happy, for example:
'You might not be happy being a doctor'
'You might want to work in McDonalds'
The recently published ‘First Annual Report on Subjective Well-being (2012)’ and previous research by ONS reported a U shaped relationship between subjective well-being ratings and age groups with overall higher ratings reported by younger and older people (ONS, 2012a).
The four questions asked, for which responses were made on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 was ‘not at all’ and 10 was ‘completely’, were:
‘Overall, how satisfied are you with your life, nowadays?’ (life satisfaction).
‘Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?’ (worthwhileness).
‘Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?’ (happy yesterday).
‘Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?’ (anxious yesterday).
Analysis of the younger age groups reveals that those aged 16-17 rated their life satisfaction at a higher level (on average) than all other age groups. A higher than above average rating was also recorded for those aged 18-19. Life satisfaction ratings in general dropped from the twenties onwards. A similar pattern is seen for responses to the question about worthwhileness (ONS, 2012d). (Figure 6)
The pattern for the younger and older groups is also apparent for responses to the questions about happiness and anxiety yesterday, with a gradual decrease in average ratings as age increases between the 16-17 age group and those aged 22-24. For responses to the question about anxiety yesterday, average ratings for young people in all the age groups from 16-17 to 22-24 were lower than the average for all ages indicating that young people are less likely to report anxiety.
The Opinions Survey asked people, ‘how optimistic they felt about the next twelve months’, and responses have shown (see Figure 8 below) that young people are very optimistic, with those aged 16-19 reporting the highest levels of optimism: 85 per cent reported medium to high levels of optimism about the next 12 months. On the whole, medium to high levels of optimism decrease with age up to the 50-54 age group. However, even some increases at older age groups in levels of medium to high optimism never reach the levels seen in the youngest group (ONS, 2012b).
This article is published as part of the ONS Measuring National Well-being Programme.The programme aims to produce accepted and trusted measures of the well-being of the nation - how the UK as a whole is doing. It is about looking at 'GDP and beyond' and includes:
greater analysis of the national economic accounts, especially to understand household income, expenditure and wealth,
further accounts linked to the national accounts, including the UK Environmental Accounts and valuing household production and 'human capital',
quality of life measures, looking at different areas of national well-being such as health, relationships, job satisfaction, economic security, education environmental conditions,
working with others to include the measurement of the well-being of children and young people as part of national well-being,
measures of 'subjective well-being' - individuals' assessment of their own well-being,
headline indicators to summarise national well-being and the progress we are making as a society.
The programme is underpinned by a communication and engagement workstream, providing links with Cabinet Office and policy departments, international developments, the public and other stakeholders. The programme is working closely with Defra on the measurement of 'sustainable development' to provide a complete picture of national well-being, progress and sustainable development.
Find out more on the Measuring National Well-being website pages.
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Haworth, John T. (2010), LIFE, WORK, LEISURE, AND ENJOYMENT: the role of social institutions.
BLF UK - Well-being: the impact of volunteering, Big Lottery Fund UK
DCMS, 2012 - Taking Part Survey, Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Shelter, 2011 - Shelter Private Rent Watch, Report one: Analysis of local rent levels and affordability.
NZ, 2006 - Quality of Life Survey (2006) Youth statistics, a statistical profile of young people in New Zealand. Ministry of Youth Development.
More information about these proposed domains and measures can be found in Measuring National Well-being summmary of proposed domains and measures. Most of the measures in this table are of direct or indirect relevance to young people. In particular, measures in the three more contextual domains, ‘The economy’, ‘Governance’ and ‘The natural environment’, are applicable to the whole population. More information, some of which is of direct relevance to young people, is already available in the domain publications for ‘Our relationships’ ‘Health’, ‘Education and skills’, Where we live’ and ‘Personal finance’ which can be found on the Measuring National Well-being publications page.
A table which lists the proposed Domains and measures (24.5 Kb Excel sheet) has been produced by ONS.