Wednesday, 26 October 2011

October 2011 Editor's Choice

Welcome to the latest selection of progress and well-being related articles from Dafydd Thomas of our Correspondents, the Wellbeing Wales Network.

Autumn in the UK is, amongst other things, the time that the party political faithful gather to look back at their achievements and plan future campaigns. An indication of wellbeing’s impact on the political agenda is clear when both the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats want to look at the role of ‘flourishing’ and ‘wellbeing’ in informing public policies. If political advances are being made, then UNICEF UK’s report on child wellbeing makes for some very sober reading on the scale of what’s needed to move from political progress to actual change.

Three years ago, Britain was at the bottom of a league table of 21 industrialised countries on child wellbeing. UNICEF UK wanted to understand why this was the case and commissioned a scoping study to review the data on poverty, family relationships and health in order to consider which factors appeared to account for the between-country differences in child wellbeing.

What the report was able to conclude in comparing Britain, Sweden and Spain was one universal constant. Irrespective of culture, values or country, a child’s happiness is dependent on having time with family and friends and having plenty to do outdoors. Unfortunately the details of the report of these international comparisons paint a very bleak picture of the state of British family life, what we value as a nation and how it all feels for children growing up in this country.

Different reports in different papers had the following comments:
Income inequalities have a ‘grave’ impact on families and parents;
• British, probably English, children are ‘the most tested children in Europe,’ which adds its own considerable pressures;
• Advertising for material goods aimed at children creates family tensions and unnecessary consumerism;
• Parents are working too hard, are too stressed and have no time for children;
• then salve their guilt buying the latest must have toys or accessories thinking that this makes their children happy.

In the midst of this disheartening situation, Kate Pickett in the Guardian feels there are some ‘grounds for optimism.’ Namely the universal, positive relationship between a child’s happiness, fulfilment and time spent with family and friends. If that’s what’s needed then policies that promote flourishing communities, happy people or child wellbeing could start by focusing on ways to help families find more time to spend together.

Finally an article in the Observer muddies the waters as the cause and effect of food on mood. Indeed, many are quoted as saying that one affects the other and visa versa.

Swedish psychiatrist, Ursula Werneke is quoted as saying “meals give you a chance to stop and take a break from the stress of the day.” Since Ursula and here fellow citizens seem to know a thing or two about their own and children’s wellbeing, that advice sounds worth taking.

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