Intended for healthcare professionals


How family friendly is the UK?

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 04 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d4823
  1. Woody Caan, professor of public health
  1. 1Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge CB1 1PT, UK
  1. woody.caan{at}

The UK is lagging behind the rest of the EU on several measures of family wellbeing

Before becoming prime minister, David Cameron promised voters he had a “long term vision of making Britain the most family friendly country in the world,” and now The Family Pressure Gauge, published in May 2011, is an attempt by the Relationships Foundation to measure Cameron’s annual progress in “helping families with the pressures they face.”1 This pressure gauge compares official data from the United Kingdom with other European countries. Overall, Britain is judged a bad place to be a child (table).1

View this table:

Areas where the UK falls far behind the best other European countries1

Policies that promote a secure family home, a safe school environment, parents’ escape from poverty, and inclusion in local social networks contribute towards maximising the potential wellbeing of every child.2 Unfortunately for population health and wellbeing, millions of British children do not experience such positive environments. In 2007, a Unicef report showed that life was miserable for more schoolchildren in the UK than in other “economically advanced” nations.3 It took a while for the Department of Health fully to grasp the implications of this widespread family misery, but a 2011 strategy prioritised the prevention of mental illness and early intervention for childhood problems.4 The strategy also committed the Department of Health to work alongside the Office for National Statistics in developing better measures of wellbeing and the Office for Civil Society in linking social policy more directly …

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