Our research revealed a 30% disparity in wellbeing scores between those that have had positive and negative experiences during their time in education. That means, if you have a bad time at school because you didn’t fit in, you were bullied, or mainstream academia wasn’t right for you, it could leave you feeling 30% less happy long after you’ve left. That could include feelings of stress, issues surrounding confidence, depression – even thoughts about suicide.
So how did we get to that figure? We carried out our research on a nationally-representative sample of 1,000 UK adults. We asked them 14 statements relating to wellbeing and quizzed how various lifestyle factors – such as how active they are, their financial confidence, relationships, and education – could affect them.
Those respondents who felt they’d had a positive experience of the education system – regardless of their current circumstances and lifestyle – displayed much higher wellbeing scores (6.92/10 on an index) than those who felt traditional education didn’t help them to achieve their potential (4.92/10).
The average Brit scored 6.13/10 on an index for their overall wellbeing.
The figures add to an already developing picture. Previous studies have revealed that schools are failing to support the mental wellbeing of youngsters in their care, with a 2015 report by think-tank, Demos, showing that final year students are three times as likely than 14-year olds to feel their school is only focused on preparing them for exams, rather than to succeed in life more generally.
Another report from Kings College London reveals that being bullied frequently as children leads to an increased risk of depression or anxiety – and that those people are more likely to report a lower quality of life at 50.
Clearly there is much to be done, but there are rays of hope. Almost 22% of respondents in our study cited a place of study or work as being the place where they encounter the highest feelings of wellbeing. So we just need to work at replicating this on a wider scale. And much of that comes down to understanding young people better and making sure they get the right educational fit.