Research finds sharp fall in wellbeing at the age of 11

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Researchers analysed more than 11,000 youngsters across the UK, using data collected when they were 11, and again when they were 14.

The teenagers’ overall “subjective well-being”, defined as their satisfaction with different aspects of life, such as friends, school and family, dropped significantly.

It is widely accepted that young people’s mental health are influenced by factors such as economic circumstances and family life.

But the Cambridge University and Manchester University research shows wellbeing tends to fall steeply and across the board during early adolescence.

That decline is probably linked to the transition to secondary school at age 11, claim to the study’s authors.

Lead author Ioannis Katsantonis, of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education, said: “Even though this was a large, diverse group of adolescents, we saw a consistent fall in wellbeing.

“One of the most striking aspects was the association with changes at school. It suggests we need to do more to support students.”

The study identified the particular aspects of wellbeing which changed in early adolescence were related to school and peer relationships, suggesting a close connection with shifts in teens’ academic and social lives.

Also, students with higher self-esteem at age 11 experienced a less significant drop in well-being at 14.

This indicates that structured efforts to strengthen their self-esteem, particularly during the first years of secondary school, could mitigate the downturn in life satisfaction.

Ros McLellan, associate professor at Cambridge University, wrote in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology: “Supporting students to feel positive about themselves in adolescence is not a fix-all solution, but it could be highly beneficial.”

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