WHO's health behaviour in children report “Growing up unequal” was launched in Brussels

The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) is a collaborative cross-national study with findings published every 4 years. It has provided information about the health, well-being, social environment and health behaviour of 11-, 13- and 15-year-old boys and girls for over 30 years.

The latest international report presents findings from the 2013/2014 survey on the demographic and social influences on the health of almost 220 000 young people in 42 countries in Europa and North America.

Responding to the survey, the young people described their social context (relations with family, peers and school), health outcomes (subjective health, injuries, obesity and mental health), health behaviour (patterns of eating, tooth brushing and physical activity) and risk behaviours (use of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis, sexual behaviour, fighting and bullying).

The survey report presents a number of positive findings:

  • Life satisfaction is generally high.
  • Girls’ and boys’ tobacco and alcohol use has reduced markedly in recent years.
  • Levels of substance use and fighting have reduced substantially for boys and girls in many countries.

 The report nevertheless demonstrates ongoing challenges:

  • Girls have poorer mental health.
  • Overweight and obesity is higher among boys, but girls are more likely to think they are too fat. One quarter of 15-year-old girls are on a diet or doing something else to lose weight.
  • Levels of physical activity remain very low. Only 25% of 11-year-olds and 16% of those aged 15 meet current guidelines for physical activity.

Statistical analyses were made to identify meaningful differences in the prevalence of health and social indicators by gender, age group and levels of family affluence. The findings highlight important health inequalities and contribute to a better understanding of the social determinants of health and well-being among young people.

The study aims to supply the up-to-date information needed by policy-makers at various levels of government, nongovernmental organizations and professionals in sectors such as health, education, social services, justice and recreation, to protect and promote young people's health.

The HBSC study has influenced policy and legislation in numerous European countries in the 33 years since its first report was published.

The report “Growing up unequal: gender and socioeconomic differences in young people’s health and well-being” can be accessed at the WHO Regional Office for Europe's website.


Posted by: Katrin Schauer

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