Children and young people have become significantly more concerned about rising prices and their family having enough money than about the environment or crime, research has found.

One in 10 children aged 10 to 17 are unhappy with their lives, according to a study by the Children’s Society.

More than 2 million children in the UK are estimated in the report to be more worried about rising prices than they are the environment while almost 3 million do not feel positive about the future of the country or the future of the world.

Future financial security, however, is the issue that most troubles the younger generation: more than 80% said they are significantly concerned about the impact that the increased cost of living will have on their family over the next 12 months.

The report also shows that girls are significantly less happy than boys with everything in their lives except for schoolwork.

“Life is just too hard for too many children,” said Mark Russell, CEO of the Children’s Society. “It is a national scandal that children’s happiness continues to slide. It is really shocking that almost half of all young people feel gloomy about the state of our world.

“We need real leadership from government to turn this around,” he added. “The need for improving children’s wellbeing is urgent.”

Nil Güzelgün, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said: “Young people are bearing the brunt of the worst cost of living crisis in a generation. With almost a third of children in Britain living in poverty, it’s sadly unsurprising that so many are now feeling the impact on their wellbeing.”

The report was published on the same day that a study by the food bank charity, the Trussell Trust, found half of working households on universal credit payments ran out of food last month and were unable to buy more.

Universal credit, the main UK benefit for those on low incomes or out of work, is claimed by 6 million people. The basic rate is at least £140 a month below the real cost of food, energy and other basics.

The study, which estimates that 700,000 people on universal credit have had to turn to charity food in the last month, also found working families on universal credit had struggled to heat their home, were more likely to skip meals and go without toiletries.

Russell said that against this background, it is little surprise that the Children’s Society research found the overall happiness of young people was at its lowest point since the survey began 12 years ago, with the younger generation significantly more unhappy about every key element of their lives than ever before, except their families.

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Jonathan Townsend, UK chief executive of the Prince’s Trust, said the findings provided a “stark reminder that the rising cost of living is having a debilitating impact on young people’s wellbeing and aspirations for the future.

“Yesterday, we released research which showed that continued economic uncertainty and financial pressures are taking a significant toll on young people’s career ambitions and life goals, with the majority feeling anxious, unconfident and hopeless about their plans for their future.”

Barry Fletcher, CEO of Youth Futures Foundation, said that more than 790,000 young people were not in employment, education or training, a 23% rise over the last two years. “We need to create long-term solutions that support young people, helping them to find good quality jobs and a brighter future,” he said.

The Children’s Society is calling for an increase to child benefits, creating cabinet-level posts of minister for children in both the UK and Welsh governments and for the government to measure children’s subjective wellbeing on an annual basis, especially that of girls.