Being young in Europe today - family and society

Data extracted in December 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: June 2021

This is one of a set of statistical articles that forms Eurostat’s flagship publication Being young in Europe today. It presents the situation of children and young people in families and society across the European Union (EU).

A paper edition of the publication was also published in 2015. In late 2017, a decision was taken to update the online version of the publication (subject to data availability).

Family structures in the EU Member States vary, reflecting cultural and normative differences. The general postponement of financial and social independence by young people indicates a delayed transition to adulthood. This article also depicts the subjective well-being of young people and of households with children as well as the social and political participation of young people in EU society.

The vast majority of the data used in this article is derived from Eurostat’s demography indicators, the EU labour force survey (LFS) and EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). However, in order to provide a global view of the main issues such as family composition, other data sources, for example, data from the United Nations, were also used.

Figure 1: Private households by household type
Source: Eurostat (lfst_hhnhtych)
Figure 2: Private households by household type
Source: Eurostat (lfst_hhnhtych)
Figure 3: Private households by household type
Source: Eurostat (lfst_hhnhtych) and UNECE
Figure 4: Estimated mean age of leaving the parental household
Source: Eurostat (yth_demo_030)
Figure 5: Estimated mean age of leaving the parental household
Source: Eurostat (yth_demo_030)
Figure 6: Young people living with their parents
Source: Eurostat (ilc_lvps08)
Figure 7: Mean age at first marriage, by sex
Source: Eurostat (demo_nind)
Figure 8: Young people aged 16-29 years who were married or in a consensual union (with or without legal basis)
Source: Eurostat (EU-SILC 2013)
Figure 9: Live births outside marriage
Source: Eurostat (demo_find)
Figure 10: Fertility rates for women aged less than 30 years
Source: Eurostat (demo_frate)
Figure 11a: Age of women who had legally induced abortions
Source: Eurostat (demo_fabort)
Figure 11b: Age of women who had legally induced abortions
Source: Eurostat (demo_fabort)
Figure 12: Children aged 0-14 years who were foreign-born
Source: Eurostat (migr_pop3ctb)
Figure 13: Young people aged 15-29 years who were foreign-born
Source: Eurostat (migr_pop3ctb)
Figure 14: Foreign-born children aged 0-14 years and young people aged 15-29 years in the foreign-born population
Source: Eurostat (migr_pop3ctb)
Figure 15: Life satisfaction
Source: Eurostat (ilc_pw01) and (ilc_pw05)
Figure 16: Level of life satisfaction, by household type
Source: Eurostat (ilc_pw02)
Figure 17: Level of meaning of life
Source: Eurostat (ilc_pw01) and (ilc_pw05)
Figure 18: Frequency of being happy during the four weeks prior to the survey, by age group
Source: Eurostat (ilc_pw08)
Figure 19: Frequency of being happy during the four weeks prior to the survey, by household type
Source: Eurostat (ilc_pw09)
Figure 20: Young people aged 15-30 years participating in political elections
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 408, 2014
Figure 21: Young people aged 15-29 years with intentions to stand as a candidate in a political election
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 375, 2013
Figure 22: Young people aged 15-30 years participating in various organisations
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 408, 2014
Figure 23: Young people aged 15-30 years participating in various organisations, by sex
Source: Flash Eurobarometer 408, 2014
Figure 24: Young people who were members of sports clubs or other activity centres
Source: Special Eurobarometer 412, 2013
Figure 25: Frequency of young people exercising or playing sports
Source: Special Eurobarometer 412, 2013
Figure 26: Young people who engaged in physical activity, by place of activity
Source: Special Eurobarometer 412, 2013

Main statistical findings

Family composition and household structure

The share of households with children is decreasing in the EU

Less than three tenths (29.8 %) of all households in the EU-28 had children in 2016 according to data from the EU labour force survey. One in five (20.1 %) households were composed of couples with children, while single adults with children accounted for 4.4 % of the total. Other types of households with children, for example, households where grandparents, parents and their children lived together, made up 5.4 % of all households.

Looking at developments since 2009, the share of EU-28 households with children decreased by approximately 2 percentage points in only seven years (from 31.8 % in 2009), although the share of single adults with children was higher in 2016 than in 2009 (rising from 4.2 % in 2009 to 4.4 % in 2016); couples with children became somewhat less frequent (down from 21.3 % to 20.1 %) and other types of households with children became much less frequent (down from 6.3 % to 5.4 %). Over the same period, the proportion of couples without children increased marginally (from 24.8 % to 24.9 %, while the proportion of single adults without children increased more substantially from 30.6 % to 33.1 %; the proportion of other types of households without children fell from 12.9 % to 12.2 %.

Large variations in household composition between EU Member States

Figure 2 extends the analysis of household composition to the EU Member States, presenting data for 2016. Ireland recorded the highest share of couples with children (27.9 %) and was the only EU Member State in which more than 40.0 % of households had children (40.7 %). Furthermore, Ireland registered a relatively high proportion of single-adult households with children, 6.0 %, compared with a 4.4 % average for the EU-28. Two EU Member States had particularly high shares of households composed of a single adult with children, namely Lithuania (7.8 %) and Denmark (8.8 %).

By contrast, the share of households with children was at its lowest levels in Germany (22.1 %) and Finland (22.2 %), shares that were only slightly more than half of the corresponding proportion in Ireland. The next lowest shares were in Sweden and Austria, where around one quarter (25.5 % and 25.8 % respectively) of all households had children. Looking only at couples with children, Germany again recorded one of the smallest shares (15.3 %), although this share was higher than in Lithuania (14.2 %). This very low proportion in Lithuania was counterbalanced somewhat by the other categories of households with children, for example, households composed of a single adult with children made up 7.8 % of all households in Lithuania, well above the EU-28 average (4.4 %). The lowest proportion of single-adult households with children was recorded in Croatia (1.8 %), followed by Finland (2.0 %) and Greece (2.2 %). Other types of households with children, for example multigenerational households, were particularly common in Croatia (13.1 %), Romania, Slovakia (both 12.4 %), Poland (10.6 %) and Malta (9.9 %).

Single persons and couples without children constitute over 50 % of all households in the developed world

Couples with children are becoming less common in many parts of the world, including the EU. They represented, in 2014, less than 30 % of the total number of households in Canada (29.4 %; 2011 data), Switzerland (28.7 %), the United States (27.9 %), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (21.9 %; 2016 data), Norway (21.0 %), the Russian Federation (15.9 %; 2010 data) and the EU-28 (20.1 %; 2016 data) — see Figure 3. The traditional ‘nuclear family’, composed of a couple with children, was seen to be in decline in the EU as a higher proportion of people lived alone (33.1 %). Equally, a higher proportion lived as couples without children (24.9 %); this includes couples that have never had children as well as couples that have not yet had children (whose share may be influenced by changes in the average age at which women give birth to their first child) and couples whose children have left home (whose share may be influenced by increased longevity).

Among the countries presented in Figure 3, the EU-28 had one of the lowest shares of one-parent families/households composed of a single adult with children (4.4 % in 2016), with the proportion of one-parent families being more than twice the EU-28 average in Serbia (12.0 %; 2011 data), Russia (11.5 %; 2010 data) and Canada (10.3 %; 2011 data).

By contrast, households composed of couples still constituted the most common type of household composition in some countries: for example, in Albania in 2011 couples with children made up 57.3 % of households, while couples without children accounted for 17.2 %.

Transition to adulthood: on average, young men leave the family home later than young women

The transition from childhood to adulthood is characterised by a number of crucial steps, such as leaving the parental home to study or work, being materially independent, moving in with a partner or getting married, and having children or not. However, the path to independence is not straightforward and young people face a range of challenges which may result in some of them staying longer in the parental home or returning to it.

Among others, leaving the parental home can be affected by whether or not young people are in a relationship or studying, their level of financial (in)dependence, labour market conditions, the cost of housing and more generally living costs. Figure 4 indicates that in 2016, on average across the whole of the EU-28, young people did not leave the parental home until the age of 27.1 years for men and 25.1 years for women. Between 2006 and 2016, there was a slight decrease in the average age at which young people left the parental home, more so for men than for women; the average age for leaving the parental home decreased by 0.5 years for men (from 27.6 years old) and by just 0.1 years for women (from 25.2 years).

In most northern and western EU Member States, on average young people left home in their early twenties while in southern and eastern EU Member States the average age for leaving home was in the late twenties or early thirties

There are significant differences between EU Member States regarding the practices concerning co-residence of generations (for example, parents living with their adult children). Figure 5 shows that there are substantial disparities between on the one hand, southern and eastern EU Member States — where multi-generational households were a more common phenomenon — and northern and western Member States, where children were more likely to leave the family earlier in order to live on their own (or with others).

In Malta, Croatia, Slovakia and Italy, the mean age of leaving the parental home was 30 or above in 2016. Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, Romania and Poland followed with a mean age that was in the range of 28.0-29.4 years. By contrast, young people in Sweden, Denmark and Finland left the parental home, on average, before the age of 22, while in Estonia, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg the average age for leaving the parental home was also less than 25. The highest average age for leaving the family home among northern EU Member States was 27.7 years in Latvia, while among western Member States it was 26.4 years in Ireland. By contrast, the lowest average age for leaving the parental home among eastern Member States was 26.3 years in the Czech Republic and among southern Member States it was 27.1 years in Cyprus.

On average, young women moved out of the parental home earlier than young men in all EU Member States, although there were considerable variations in this gender gap. In 2016, young women in Sweden left the parental home, on average, aged 20.6 years, while for young men the average age was just a few months more, at 20.8 years; these were the lowest averages for men and for women among all of the EU Member States and also the smallest gender gap (0.2 years). The gender gap was 0.6 years in Luxembourg and Denmark and also less than one year in Estonia and Cyprus. These figures can be contrasted with the situation in Croatia, where the average age for men leaving the parental home was 33.2 years — the highest average age for men among all of the Member States — while for women it was 29.7 years, resulting in a gender gap of 3.5 years. Even larger gender gaps were observed in Romania (a gap of 4.5 years) and Bulgaria (4.7 years). The oldest average age for women leaving the parental home was observed in Malta — at 30.6 years — the only Member State to record a value for women above 30 years.

Men under the age of 30 tended not to fly the nest in many of the southern EU Member States

For the EU-28, the data in Figure 6 show that 79.7 % of young men aged 20-24 years lived with their parents in 2016, while the corresponding share was 67.6 % for young women of the same age. Looking at the age group 25-29 years, the proportion of young men living in the parental home was 46.6 % and the share for young women was 30.7%.

In 2016, more than three quarters of young men aged 25-29 years lived in their parent’s home in Croatia (84.6 %), Slovakia (81.9 %), Malta (78.0 %) and Greece (77.1 %). By contrast, young men in Denmark, Finland and Sweden were much more likely to have left the parental home, as only 5.6 %, 8.7 % and 10.3 % of those aged 25-29 years were still living with their parents in 2016. A similar pattern, but with generally lower shares, was observed for women: more than three in five women aged 25-29 years were living with their parents in 2016 in Malta (66.9 %), Croatia (64.1 %), Greece (63.5 %)and Slovakia (61.7 %), while less than 1 in 10 did in Denmark, Finland (both 3.3 %) and Sweden (7.4 %). Turning to the younger age group, namely persons aged 20-24 years, Denmark, Finland and Sweden again reported the lowest shares of young people living with their parents in 2016, less than half for men and less than one third for women. Elsewhere, around two thirds or more of young men aged 20-24 years lived with their parents; this share exceeded 9 out of 10 young men in 11 of the EU Member States, peaking at 96.4 % in Slovakia. Among young women of the same age group a majority were living with their parents in all but four of the Member States; the exceptions were the three Nordic Member States mentioned above and the United Kingdom where the share was just under half (49.7 %). In 10 Member States, the share for women aged 20-24 years was above four in five and peaked at 90.6 % in Malta.

Stable gender gap concerning the age at first marriage

The average age of first marriage increased considerably over the two last decades in all of the EU Member States (see Figure 7). A simple average based on those EU Member States for which national data are available in 2015 shows that the average age for women to be wed for the first time was 29.9 years, while that for men was 32.4 years. In 1995, the average age (again a simple average based on available data) of first marriage was 25.7 years for women and 28.3 years for men. As such, the average age for a first time marriage increased by just over four years for both men and women between 1995 and 2015, although some of this difference may be explained by the different data coverage for 1995 and 2015.

Despite these increases in the average age at the time of first marriage, the gender gap remained relatively unchanged in most of the EU Member States. In 2015, the simple average of the gender gaps was 2.5 years whereas in 1995 it was 2.6 years. The largest gender gaps in 2016 were recorded in Romania (3.5 years), Bulgaria (3.4 years) and Greece (3.1 years), while the United Kingdom was the only Member State where the average age at first marriage of women was higher than that for men, with a gender gap of 0.6 years (2013 data).

Romania, Poland and Bulgaria were the EU Member States that reported the youngest average ages for women getting married for the first time in 2015, from 26.8 to 27.0 years. At the other end of the range was Sweden, where the average age of women getting married for the first time was 33.6 years. The pattern across Member States for men was similar to that observed for women, although Lithuania had the youngest average age for men getting married for the first time (28.9 years), while Sweden again had the oldest average (36.2 years).

New patterns in family units

Getting married is not the only way for partners to live together: indeed, living in a consensual union is a growing phenomenon across the EU, whether it is with or without a legal basis.

According to EU-SILC, in 2013 some 12.2 % of young people aged 16-29 years in the EU-28 were living in a consensual union without a legal basis, while 10.7 % of the same age group were living as married couples or in a consensual union with a legal basis. Although the difference in relative shares was not substantial at an EU level, different laws and customs across the EU Member States have affected how quickly or not alternative types of family units have become established.

Northern and western EU Member States have higher shares of young people living in a consensual union without legal basis, notably 30.7 % in Finland, 24.6 % in France, 21.8 % in Estonia, 21.2 % in Sweden, 20.9 % in Denmark and 20.3 % in the United Kingdom. By contrast, in southern and particularly eastern EU Member States (for example, Poland, Malta, Croatia and Romania) a considerably higher proportion of young people lived together in partnerships that had a legal basis (whether or not this was marriage), and this was also the case in Lithuania. Hungary was atypical (among the eastern EU Member States), insofar as the proportion of young people living together in a consensual union without a legal basis (11.1 %) was considerably higher than the share living together in partnerships with a legal basis (5.8 %).

Births outside of marriage increased in the EU

The proportion of live births outside marriage increased across the EU over recent decades, reflecting the changing patterns of family structures. More and more couples became parents without getting married and those that did marry tended to do so at a later age. The share of children born outside of marriage in the EU-28 rose from 21.6 % in 1995 to reach 33.0 % by 2005, before continuing to increase during the most recent decade for which data are available, reaching 42.0 % by 2014 (see Figure 9).

In 15 of the EU Member States the share of live births outside of marriage was above the EU-28 average: the highest shares in 2015 were recorded in France (59.1 %), Bulgaria (58.6 %), Estonia and Slovenia (both 57.9 %), while more than half of all live births were also outside of marriage in Sweden, Denmark and Portugal. By contrast, Greece (8.8 %), Cyprus (16.6 %) and Croatia (18.1 %) recorded the lowest proportions of live births outside of marriage in 2015.

Between 1995 and 2015, the proportion of live births outside of marriage grew in all EU Member States. The Netherlands (up 34.3 points), Spain (33.4 points), Bulgaria (32.9 points), the Czech Republic (32.2 points), Portugal (32.1 points) and Belgium (32.1 points; 1995-2014) recorded the largest increases, while Sweden (up 1.7 points), Greece (5.8 points) and Denmark (7.3 points) were the only Member States to register increases below 10.0 points.


In 2015, more than half of all births occurred outside of marriage in France, Bulgaria, Estonia, Slovenia, Sweden, Denmark and Portugal.
© Fotolia

Highest number of live births during adolescence and youth in Romania and Bulgaria

Complementing the analysis of fertility rates and of the mean age of mother’s when having their first child (as presented in the article on demographic trends), Figure 10 shows the fertility rates of women aged less than 30 years, analysed by five-year age groups. For girls aged 10-14 years, EU-28 fertility rates were 0.2 live births per 1 000 girls, in other words, there were, on average, just two live births for every 10 000 girls of this age, while the corresponding rate for girls/women aged 15-19 years was 10.8 live births per 1 000 girls/women. Among young women, fertility rates in the EU-28 were 43.6 live births per 1 000 women for women aged 20-24 years and 90.5 live births per 1 000 women for women aged 25-29 years.

There were considerable differences across EU Member States as regards fertility rates during adolescence and early youth; these differences may reflect, among others, sex education at school, attitudes towards discussing these matters within families, and cultural differences with regards to typical ages for marriage and family formation. The fertility rate for girls/women under the age of 20 was relatively high in Bulgaria and Romania (41.3 and 36.6 live births per 1 000 girls/women aged 10-19 years). The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Slovenia and Cyprus recorded the lowest fertility rates for girls/women aged 10-19 years (all less than 5.0 live births per 1 000 girls/women). Turning to the age group 20-24 years, Romania and Bulgaria also recorded the highest fertility rates in the EU among women aged 20-24 years (around 70 live births per 1 000 young women),followed quite closely by Latvia (64.4 live births per 1 000 women). Cyprus, Spain and Greece recorded the lowest fertility rate in this age group, less than 27 live births per 1 000 women. The oldest age group shown in Figure 10 concerns young women aged 25-29 years. Fertility rates in this age group were lowest in the southern Member States, with rates below 70 live births per 1 000 women in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal, while fertility rates were also below the EU-28 average in Cyprus and Malta. Equally, all of the eastern EU Member States reported fertility rates in this age group that were below the EU-28 average, while all northern Member States (Baltic and Nordic) reported rates that were above average. For the western Member States the picture was less clear cut, with rates ranging from 76.4 live births per 1 000 women in Luxembourg to 124.5 live births per 1 000 women in France, which was also the highest fertility rate for this age group among all of the Member States.

The number of abortions has gone down greatly, as has the share of abortions among teenagers

The ability of families to plan whether or not to have children and when to have them is fundamental. Yet, family planning remains a neglected public health priority [1] and unmet needs for contraception and advice lead to unintended pregnancies which may impact upon lives and well-being.

In 2015, there were in excess of 780 000 legally induced abortions in the 20 EU Member States for which data are available (based on latest data available between 2010 and 2015). This figure marks a reduction of 41 % when compared with the 1.2 million abortions that were registered in 2005 (in 22 Member States, based on data available for 2005 or the nearest year between 2003 and 2007).

While most pregnancy terminations in 2005 and 2015 concerned young women under the age of 30, the most recent data suggests that there has been a decrease in abortions performed on girls aged under 20. For instance, in the United Kingdom in 2005 more than 21 % of all legal abortions concerned teenagers (less than 20 years old), a share that had fallen to 17.1 % by 2012. A similar downward development was observed in 13 of the other 14 Member States for which data are available in both parts of Figure 11, the one exception being Hungary where the share increased from 11.9 % in 2005 to 13.6 % in 2015 (see Figures 11a and 11b). Particularly large falls in the share of teenage abortions between 2005 and 2015 were recorded in Finland (down 8.0 points), Latvia (down 6.2 points), Estonia (down 5.5 points between 2007 and 2015) and Germany (down 4.6 points).

Foreign-born children and young people in the EU

Citizens from EU Member States have the freedom of movement within the EU’s internal borders. Being free to move from one EU Member State to another may help promote intercultural understanding and contribute to the creation of a common EU identity. Furthermore, this freedom allows EU citizens to live, study and look for work in another Member State.


In most EU Member States, at least one fifth of the foreign-born population was composed of children and young people.
© Fotolia

Migration policies within the EU are increasingly concerned with attracting particular migrant profiles, often in an attempt to alleviate perceived skills shortages. Selection can be carried out on the basis of language proficiency, work experience, educational attainment and/or age. International immigration, especially of young people, may be used as a tool to solve specific labour market shortages but also to have a positive impact on the age structure of the destination country. However, migration alone will almost certainly not reverse the ongoing pattern of population ageing that is being experienced in many parts of the EU.

Migration is influenced by push and pull factors that combine economic, political and social factors, as well as global events, and linguistic and/or historical ties; these may have a direct impact on the size and composition of foreign populations.

Nearly one in five children and two in five young people in Luxembourg were born outside the country

Looking at the population of children aged 0-14 years, Luxembourg was the EU Member State where the share of foreign-born children was highest in 2016, with 14.1 % of all children born in another EU-28 Member State and 5.9 % of all children born in a non-member country, resulting in one fifth (20.0 %) of children having been born outside the national territory (see Figure 12). Ireland and Cyprus had the next highest shares of foreign-born children, with 9.1 % and 6.5 % of children born in another EU Member State, and 4.2 % and 2.8 % in a non-member country, giving totals of 13.3 % and 9.2 % of all children being foreign-born. Sweden recorded the highest share of children born outside of the EU (6.0 %), while its share of children born in another EU Member State was relatively low (1.8 %). By contrast, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland and Estonia recorded the lowest shares of children having been born outside of their national territory (1.0-1.6 % of the total).

Figure 13 presents a similar analysis but for young people aged 15-29 years; note that the scale of this figure is different from that used in Figure 12 for children. As for children, the highest share of young people born in a foreign country was recorded in Luxembourg (40.3 % in 2016), followed by Cyprus, Ireland and Austria (where 28.4 %, 21.5 % and 20.7 % respectively of all persons aged 15-29 years had been born abroad); these were the only EU Member States where more than one fifth of all young people were foreign born. For the first three — Luxembourg, Cyprus and Ireland — a majority of their foreign-born young people were born in other EU Member States, whereas the opposite was true in Austria. The five EU Member States with the highest shares of non-EU foreign-born young people were Sweden (14.2 %), Spain (12.8 %), Luxembourg, Austria (both 12.2 %) and Cyprus (11.8 %); all of the remaining Member States recorded single-digit shares.

On the other hand, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Latvia and Romania had the lowest shares of young foreign-born persons, as this subpopulation accounted for 0.8-2.0 % of the total population among those aged 15-29 years.

Figure 14 focuses on the age structure of the foreign-born population within each EU Member State and particularly the share of children and young people aged 15-29 years within the total foreign-born population.

In 2016, Romania had the highest share of children and young people in its foreign-born population, as those aged 0-29 years accounted for three fifths (60.7 %) of the total foreign-born population. Bulgaria, Ireland, Cyprus, Denmark and Finland followed with an aggregated share for children and young people that was higher than 30 % of the total foreign-born population. At least one fifth of the foreign-born population of the EU Member States consisted of children and young people with five exceptions: the three Baltic Member States (Latvia, 5.0 %; Estonia, 7.7 %; Lithuania, 13.6 %), Croatia (12.8 %) and Slovenia (16.2 %).

Subjective well-being

The level of integration in society can be reflected through subjective measures, such as overall life satisfaction or the degree of happiness. A 2013 EU-SILC ad-hoc module covered these aspects of subjective well-being, and provides a range of interesting results for young people and EU households with children.

Young people tend to report higher levels of life satisfaction

Life satisfaction can be measured on an 11-point scale which ranges from 0 (‘not satisfied at all’) to 10 (‘fully satisfied’). In order to aid interpretation and to facilitate analyses, answers were grouped into low, medium and high satisfaction, based on the following thresholds: scores of 0-5 were classified as a ‘low’ levels of satisfaction, 6-8 as ‘medium’ levels of satisfaction, and 9 and 10 as ‘high’ levels of satisfaction.

As can be seen in Figure 15, life satisfaction in 2013 was highest in the EU-28 among the youngest age group, as 29.4 % of young people aged 16-24 years reported that they were highly satisfied with life; this high share pushed up the average level of satisfaction among people aged 16-24 years to 7.6 (on a scale of 0-10).

Generally, life satisfaction within the EU-28 population decreased as a function of age, with the exception of those aged 65-74 years (the period in life which corresponds to the first decade of retirement for many people), where satisfaction levels were slightly higher than for people aged 50-64 years (7.0 versus 6.9 in 2013).

In most EU Member States, the youngest age group reported the highest overall scores for life satisfaction in 2013, exceptions being Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom where people aged 65 years and over were more satisfied than the young; this was also the case in Switzerland and Norway.

Life satisfaction is higher among couples and in households with children

Figure 16 shows that life satisfaction for people living alone in the EU-28 was below the average level of satisfaction for couples (both with and without children). Households with two adults reported the highest levels for life satisfaction in 2013 (7.2). The lowest level of life satisfaction, on the other hand, was recorded for single-person households (6.6). Households with dependent children reported a higher level of life satisfaction (7.2) than households without dependent children (6.9).

Similar patterns for meaning of life and happiness

The meaning of life is measured here as a feeling that one’s life has a sense and purpose. Results for this subjective indicator show an almost identical pattern to those for life satisfaction, with the difference, however, that the meaning of life was consistently rated at a higher level than life satisfaction; in other words, in 2013 the EU-28 population was generally more positive regarding the meaning of life (see Figure 17).

In EU-SILC, happiness is measured by the following question: ‘How much of the time over the past four weeks have you been happy?’ Although this question was asked on a verbal five-point scale and can therefore not be directly compared with results for life satisfaction, there were similar patterns regarding differences between various age groups and types of household.

As can be seen in Figure 18, happiness (as for life satisfaction and the meaning of life) was highest in the EU-28 among the youngest age group (16-24 years), with 71.4 % of this subpopulation reporting to have been happy all or most of the time over the four weeks prior to the survey (conducted during 2013). Happiness then decreased as a function of age through to those aged 50-64 years, before rising slightly post-retirement (persons aged 65-74 years) and then subsequently falling to its lowest level for persons aged 75 years and over, where more than one sixth (17.9 %) of respondents cited that they were happy ‘little or none of the time’.

Figure 19 illustrates that people in two adult households (in many cases couples) were generally happier than people living on their own and that households with children were the happiest. In 2013, almost two thirds (62.6 %) of people living in EU-28 households with two adults and 55.9 % of people living in households with three or more adults declared that they were happy all or most of the time, compared with 49.9 % of single person households. The share of people in these three types of households who were never or rarely happy ranged from 12.0 % among households with two adults to 19.3 % for single person households. People in households with children were more likely to be happy always or most of the time (63.1 %) and less likely to be never or rarely happy (10.2 %) than households without children (57.2 % for always/most of the time and 14.8 % for never or rarely).

Young people’s participation in society

Social and political participation of young people is considered one means of encouraging a more inclusive and democratic society. The active participation of young people in decisions and actions locally, regionally, nationally and across the EU enhances their capacity to influence decision-making and allows them to contribute to building a better society.

Taking active part in democracy

The results of Flash Eurobarometer No. 408 ‘European youth’, which was conducted in 2014, indicate that more than three fifths (63 %) of people aged 15-30 years in the EU-28 had voted in an election during the previous three years, while the remainder had not voted, either out of choice/hindrance (19 %) or because they had not yet reached the legal voting age (16 %).

Figure 20 shows that voting among young people was particularly high in Sweden (82 %), Austria, Slovakia (both 79 %), Romania (78 %), Belgium and Latvia (both 77 %). By contrast, in four EU Member States, less than half of all respondents aged 15-30 years had voted during the previous three years: Lithuania (49 %), Ireland (48 %), Cyprus (47 %) and the United Kingdom (45 %). The fact that voting is compulsory in some EU Member States could have an influence on the results, as could the frequency with which some countries vote and the last time that there was an election (for example, for the European Parliament, national presidential elections, or for national, regional or local legislative elections, depending on the Member State) prior to the survey being conducted, as could the proportion of foreigners in the population (as foreigners may not be eligible to vote in some or all elections where they are resident).

Just under one fifth (19 %) of the young people aged 15-29 years surveyed in the EU in a 2013 Flash Eurobarometer (No. 375) said they would consider standing as a candidate in an election, while an overwhelming majority (79 %) said they would not consider doing so (see Figure 21). Within the 19 % who were considering the idea, only 5 % said that they would certainly stand, while 14 % replied that they would probably do so. There were however considerable variations between EU Member States: the highest proportions of young people who would consider standing in an election as a candidate were found in Sweden (29 %), Latvia (27 %) and Romania (24 %), whereas at the other end of the range, just 8 % of respondents in Hungary said that they would consider standing for election, a share that rose to 10 % in Malta and 12 % in the Czech Republic, Denmark and Greece.

Participating in organised activities can develop a person’s interest in political, social, cultural, environmental or other issues (see Figure 22). Results from Flash Eurobarometer No. 408 indicate that half (51 %) of all the young people aged 15-30 years in the EU-28 had not participated in any of the types of surveyed organisations in 2014. The most popular organised activities in which young people participated were those linked to sports clubs: around 3 in 10 (29 %) of respondents across the EU-28 reported having participated in sports club activities within the previous year. The next most frequent activity was being involved in a youth club, leisure-time club or any kind of youth organisation (16 %). Participation rates for young people involved in local organisations aiming to improve the local community were lower (at 11 %), which was around the same proportion as people who had participated in cultural organisations (10 %). Participation in non-governmental organisations (7 %), political organisations (5 %) and organisations promoting human rights or global development (5 %) were less common, as was participation in organisations on climate change and environmental issues (3 %).

Figure 23 shows that young men were more likely to participate in any type of organisation than young women. Nearly three fifths (58 %) of young women stated that they had not participated in any of the types of surveyed organisations during the year prior to the survey, compared with 44 % for young men. A large part of this gap can be explained by the different participation rates concerning sports clubs, where just over one fifth (21 %) of young women were participants compared with more than one third (36 %) of young men. Involvement in a youth club, leisure-time club or any kind of youth organisation was also more common for young men (18 %) than for young women (14 %). For the other types of organisations shown in Figure 23 the participation rates for young men and women were often broadly similar, with notable differences for two types of organisations: young men were approximately twice as likely as young women to have participated in a political organisation, whereas young women were more likely than young men to have participated in organisations on climate change and environmental issues.

Sports and physical activity — a sound mind in a healthy body

A 2013 Special Eurobarometer on ‘Sport and physical activity’ (No. 412) confirmed that sports clubs were the most popular type of organisation that young people joined. According to this survey, 21 % of young people in the EU-28 aged 15-24 years were members of a sports club. The proportion of people aged 25-39 years who were members of a sports club was 12 %, and therefore lower than the share who were members of a health or fitness centre (15 %). Overall, a majority of young people were not members of any type of sports club or other activity centre: 58 % of those aged 15-24 years and 70 % of those aged 25-39 years.

However, it would appear that a higher proportion of young people played sports and performed physical activities more informally. As illustrated in Figures 25 and 26, a majority (64 %) of young people aged 15-24 years exercised or played sports regularly or with some regularity in 2013. By comparison, 46 % of people aged 25-39 years exercised or played sports regularly or with some regularity.

In 2013, the most common place to engage in physical activity was outdoors, for example in parks: this location was cited by one third of all young people aged 15-24 years in the EU-28. Other locations that were cited by at least a fifth of young people who engaged in physical activity included: at home; on the way between home and school, work or the shops; at a place of study; at a health or fitness centre; at a sports club. Comparing between the two different age groups, a much higher proportion of young people aged 15-24 years engaged in physical activity at school or university, while the proportion engaging in physical activity at work was much lower for this younger age group, reflecting the fact that a much smaller proportion of this age group was at work. Generally, the younger age group were more likely to use more formal physical activity locations such as health/fitness centres, sports clubs and sports centres than were the older age group, whereas the older age group were more likely to engage in physical activity in less formal environments, such as outdoors or at home.

Data sources and availability

The data used in this article are primarily derived from demography data that is collected by Eurostat on a range of issues related to population developments, household structure, non-national population stocks, marriages and fertility. Data are collected on an annual basis and are supplied to Eurostat by the national statistical authorities of the EU Member States.

In addition, the EU labour force survey (EU-LFS) covers a range of statistics on the number, characteristics and typologies of households. Under the specific topic ‘Family composition and household structure‘, the EU-LFS presents statistics on household composition, the number and size of households, as well as on the estimated age that young people leave the parental home. It should be noted that the survey covers only citizens living in private households and excludes those living in collective or institutional households. In order to provide a worldwide comparison for household structures, data from the UNECE database have also been used.

Figures on consensual union (with or without a legal basis) are derived from EU statistics on income and living conditions (EU-SILC). The 2013 ad-hoc EU-SILC module on subjective well-being provided data on life satisfaction, the meaning of life and happiness.

Data from Eurobarometer surveys have been used to depict the situation concerning social and political participation by young people. Eurobarometer surveys are opinion surveys which address a wide range of topics, for example: EU enlargement, the social situation, health, culture, information technology, the environment, the euro, or defence issues.

Context

EU policies related to migration and the migrant population

In May 2013, the European Commission published the EU Citizenship Report 2013 (COM(2013) 269 final); it noted that EU citizenship brings new rights and opportunities. Moving and living freely within the EU is the right most closely associated with EU citizenship. Given modern technology and the fact that it is now easier to travel, freedom of movement allows EU citizens to expand their horizons beyond national borders, to leave their country for shorter or longer periods, to come and go between EU Member States to study and train, to travel for business or for leisure, to shop across borders or to look for work. Free movement potentially increases social and cultural interactions within the EU and closer bonds between EU citizens. In addition, it may generate mutual economic benefits for businesses and consumers, including those who remain at home, as internal obstacles are removed.

EU policies targeting subjective well-being

Measuring well-being has an inherent appeal: well-being is arguably the ultimate aim of all EU policies, and the common thread that runs through them all. Promoting the well-being of people in the EU is one of the principal aims of the EU, as set forth by the Treaty on European Union. In the EU a broad range of outcomes is considered when evaluating the objectives of social and economic policy including subjective measures around the quality of life. Many EU and Member State bodies report on subjective well-being and publish associated reports going beyond gross domestic product (GDP) as the overall measure of societal performance.

Well-being began to appear more explicitly within the EU policy agenda in 2006 when the Council of the EU cited the well-being of present and future generations as its central goal within its European Sustainable Development Strategy. Soon after, the limits of GDP as a measure of well-being were increasingly discussed at an international level flowing into the ’Beyond GDP’ initiative followed by a Conference in the European Parliament in 2007. In 2009, the European Commission published its Communication on ’GDP and beyond — measuring progress in a changing world’ concluding that EU policies will be ultimately judged on the question if they successfully delivered social, economic and environmental goals. In the same year, the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (Stiglitz-Commission) published its report. The so-called Stiglitz Report was also the basis for the work of the ESS (European Statistical System) Sponsorship Group on Measuring Progress, Well-being and Sustainable Development which published its report in 2011.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Main tables

Total fertility rate (tps00199)
Share of live births outside marriage (tps00018)

Database

LFS series - Specific topics (lfst)
Fertility indicators (demo_find)
Fertility rates by age (demo_frate)
Legally induced abortions by mother's age (demo_fabort)
Marriage indicators (demo_nind)
Population on 1 January by age group, sex and country of birth (migr_pop3ctb)
Youth population (yth_demo)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Excel.jpg Family and society: tables and figures

External links

Notes

  1. Cf. ‘Choices and planning. Entre Nous No. 79’, World Health Organisation (see http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/Life-stages/sexual-and-reproductive-health/publications/entre-nous/entre-nous/choices-and-planning.-entre-nous-no.-79).