Young people more sedentary but smoking, drinking and drug use decline

Children are leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles, but the proportion taking drugs, drinking and smoking have all dropped within the past decade, a comprehensive report on young person health from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows.

Smoking, drinking and drug use in decline among children
Smoking, drinking and drug use in decline among children

The HSCIC’s Focus on the Health and Care of Young People report compiles a range of statistics on the health, care and wellbeing of young people in England for the first time, giving clinicians a glimpse into how the younger generations of today use health services.

It shows that technology is becoming an increasingly important tool for young people to access information on their health, with 48% of young adults (aged 16-24) regularly consulting health apps and 61% using the internet to look up health or social care-related conditions.

Children are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles, with the proportion of 13- to 15-year-old boys taking the recommended amount of exercise halving from 28% to 14% in just four years up to 2012. Among girls of the same age, this dropped from 14% to 8%.

But the number of children eating the recommended five portions of fruit a day has increased – for five- to seven-year-olds, this has almost doubled from 9% in 2003 to 17% in 2013. For eight- to 10-year-olds, this went from 10% to 20% over the same period.

Drug use in decline

Drug use also dropped over the past decade, falling from a third (29%) of 11- to 15-year-olds taking drugs in 2001 to 16% in 2013.

In 2013/14, mental health referral rates were twice as high for 15- to 19-year-old females than males, the report found.

HSCIC lead clinician Professor Martin Severs said: ‘Today’s report shines a light on the lifestyles and behaviours of young people from cradle to teenage years and beyond.

‘With this information we are able to gain a clearer understanding of how the NHS is used by this generation. This is absolutely vital to give people in charge of commissioning services for young people the building blocks of information they need to plan for now and the future.’

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