Press release

Reasons to be cheerful - be a boy and eat dinner with your family

22nd December 2010

Given current interest in a wellbeing index that measures happiness, the results of a survey recently carried out by NFER on behalf of the Department for Education, produced some interesting results.

As part of the Tellus4 Survey, over 32, 000 school children, in years 6, 8 and 10, where asked to rate how they felt about the statement "I feel happy about life at the moment". Having analysed their responses to this question the NFER’s Centre for Statistics have considered how these relate to other findings in the survey and look at the conclusions that can be made as to how various aspects of their life affect their happiness.

Key findings

The things most associated with increased chances of feeling happy were:

Other important aspects included:

The results of the survey also showed that some things which might have been thought to cause young people to worry, do not appear to have a considerable effect on their happiness. One such aspect was poverty, (measured either by eligibility for free school meals or by the level of deprivation in the areas where young people live), where, once we have taken account of other influences, no significant association was found.

The results also showed an indication that although schoolwork and examinations may be stressful at the time, they do not as a rule have a negative impact on young people’s overall feeling of happiness.  Another unusual result was that when asked whether they worry about sex, those young people who said that they did were slightly more likely to state that they were happy than similar young people who did not.

Research Director at NFER, Tom Benton, comments that "Our analysis confirms that if we are interested in the happiness and wellbeing of young people we need to look beyond how much money they have. In particular, growing up in a supportive and safe environment, both within the home and elsewhere appear to be far more important. Parents making the effort to spend time with their children are a major positive influence on their chances of being happy."

The full report and statistical background are available at: /publications/99910/

For more information contact Allie Chownsmith, Media and Communications Executive, on 01753 637155 or Gail Goodwin, Media and Communications Manager, on 01753 637159


Notes to editors

The Tellus4 survey was delivered by NFER and undertaken online by 253,755 children and young people in Years 6, 8 and 10 in 3,699 primary, secondary and special schools and Pupil Referral Units in the 2009 autumn term.

The Centre for Statistics leads on complex statistical analysis on all NFER’s research work and quality assures other statistical analysis.

The NFER is the UK’s largest independent provider of research, assessment and information services for education and children’s services. Its purpose is to make a difference to learners of all ages, especially to the lives of children and young people, by ensuring that its work improves the practice and understanding of everyone who works with and for learners.

NFER undertakes around 200 research projects every year, spanning all sectors of education and children’s services, and provides high quality, evidence-based research for policy makers, managers and practitioners. The Foundation offers a wide range of services and information sites, making NFER a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in education and improving children’s lives.

For more information visit