Stop Press - UK teenagers unhealthiest around
They drink too much, smoke too much, feel under massive work
pressures and don't even really like each other - British
children are among the unhealthiest and unhappiest in the
world, according to a report published today.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) study of more than 150,000
young people in 35 countries found that the physical and mental
health of children in the UK is more like that of poverty-stricken
former communist nations than our western European neighbours.
Teenagers in England in particular but also their counterparts
in Scotland and Wales, have some of the highest rates of drinking,
smoking, drug use and underage sex - and the lowest levels
of life satisfaction, fruit consumption and feelings of physical
The WHO survey on Health Behaviour in School-aged Children
(HBSC) is conducted every four years and interviews 11, 13
and 15-year-olds from the United States, Canada and nearly
all eastern and western European countries.
It is the largest international study of adolescent attitudes
and provides an intriguing - and worrying - snapshot into
the lives of British teenagers compared with their peers across
English 13-year-olds are the least likely in the world to
believe their peers are "kind and helpful", while
only Russian 11-year-olds and Czech 15-year-olds had a lower
opinion of their generation than the same age groups in England.
Less than half of all the English adolescents saw each other
as kind and helpful, compared with the study's average of
60 per cent.
A third of English, Scottish and Welsh girls rated their health
as only fair or poor, with only their peers in Ukraine, Lithuania
and Latvia feeling worse off. Fewer than one in five girls
in Spain, Italy and Switzerland feel the same way.
When the children were asked about quality of life, England
was in the bottom half of the league alongside former eastern
bloc countries, while Dutch, Swedish and Greek young people
were the happiest.
However, English and Welsh youngsters have the highest rates
of drinking and get drunk at a younger age than children from
most other countries.
While they have below average hours of homework, with only
a quarter of 15-year-olds spending more than three hours a
day on after-school assignments, they feel under greater stress.
Six out of 10 boys and seven out of 10 girls aged 15 in England
say they feel pressured by schoolwork, with only Lithuanian
and Welsh peers reporting greater stress.
Campaigners said the failure to tackle the public health problems
affecting young people was causing a self-perpetuating cycle
Anne Jenkins, the head of research at the charity Alcohol
Concern, said: "We have got a situation where young teenagers
are simply replicating what they see the next age group up
from them doing; getting drunk, binge drinking and drinking
Throughout the survey, English children rated alongside Eastern
Europe rather than with nations such as France, Germany, Italy
One in three children from all the age groups in England watches
more than four hours of television per weekday, compared with
the WHO average of one in five.
A third of 11-year-old children from this country go without
breakfast on school days, while 90 per cent of their Portuguese
peers start every day with a morning meal. Only children from
Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland eat less fruit than
English and Welsh youngsters.
More than half of teenage boys and a third of teenagegirls
in England admitted they had been involved in a fight in the
past 12 months - double the rate of German children.
Health experts said the study should help countries to develop
long-term policies to improve the health of young people.
Marc Danzon, the WHO regional director said: "Looking
after the health of young people is of vital importance.
"We know that attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle patterns
strongly influence well-being and are shaped at an early age.
It is important to know what factors determine these lifelong