No-one knows exactly how many children are bereaved each year. Data is collected each year on the number of children affected by the divorce of their parents, but not on the number affected by the death of a parent. This information is urgently needed, to plan for service development and to make more sense of research on the impact of bereavement on children's lives.
In the absence of official data, we have estimate the numbers using mortality statistics, census data and other sources. Download a detailed breakdown of these figures by each nation in the UK.
How many children and young people are bereaved?
Bereavement in children and young people is more frequent than many people think. 78% 11-16 year olds in one survey said that they had been bereaved of a close relative or friend (Harrison and Harrington, 2001).
How many parents die each year, leaving dependent children?
We estimate that in 2015, 23,600 parents died in the UK, leaving dependent children (23,200 in 2014). That's one parent every 22 minutes.
How many children are bereaved of a parent each year?
We estimate that in 2015, these parents left behind around 41,000 dependent children aged 0-17 (40,000 in 2014). That's 112 newly bereaved children every day.
How many children in the current population have been bereaved of a parent?
By the age of 16, 4.7 per cent or around 1 in 20 young people will have experienced the death of one or both of their parents (Parsons, 2011).
How many children in the current population have been bereaved of a parent or sibling?
In 2004, the last time a national survey was done, around 3.5% of 5-16 year olds had been bereaved of a parent or sibling (Fauth and others, 2012). That is around 1 in 29 (or roughly one per classroom). In today's terms, that equates to around 309,000 school age children across the UK.
However, as mortality rates have fallen since that survey was carried out, we hope that the rates of bereaved children have also fallen since then. We are joining with others to campaign for the survey to be carried out again, so that we can be more sure of the numbers.
Are some groups more likely to be bereaved?
Yes. Mortality rates vary by social class and geography, so it follows that children living in disadvantaged areas are more likely to be bereaved. Also, some groups of children may be more likely to experience particular kinds of bereavement: for example mortality rates among disabled young people with complex health needs are higher than among the general population, so young people attending special school are probably more likely to be bereaved of a friend than their peers in mainstream schools.
How many schools are supporting bereaved children?
A survey of primary schools in Hull found that over 70% had a child on roll who had been bereaved of someone important to them in the last two years (Holland, 1993). All schools will be affected by bereavement at some point.
Harrison, L and Harrington, R (2001) ‘Adolescents’ bereavement experiences: Prevalence, association with depressive symptoms, and use of services’, Journal of Adolescence, 24, 159–169.
Holland, J (1993). ‘Child bereavement in Humberside’, Educational Research, 35, 3, 289–297.
Fauth, B, Thompson, M and Penny, A (2009) Associations Between Childhood Bereavement and Children’s Background, Experiences and Outcomes: Secondary Analysis of the 2004 Mental Health of Children and Young People in Great Britain Data. London: National Children’s Bureau
Parsons, S (2011) Long-term Impact of Childhood Bereavement: Preliminary Analysis of the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70). London:Child Well-being Research Centre.