teenGood health in adolescence is central to wellbeing, and the bedrock for good health in later life, yet we do not invest enough in prevention and early intervention with young people aged 10-24 according to the Association for Young People’s Health latest annual report.

Young people’s health: Update 2014, compiled by Dr Ann Hagell and Dr John Coleman OBE also finds that and when problems do arise young people can often face barriers in access to appropriate care.

The report also outlines that there are encouraging trends, such as reductions in the proportions smoking, but there are also large health inequalities. Some groups – those facing more social disadvantage - are doing worse than others.

Particular issues include mental health problems (including anxiety and self-harm), substance misuse, managing sleep and nutrition, and encouraging a healthy relationship with social media. In terms of services, there remains a need for more youth friendly provision, more workforce training on adolescent development, and better understanding of the rules around confidentiality.

The forthcoming publication of Public Health England’s new framework for young people’s health and wellbeing1 offers an opportunity to reflect on ways of improving service to this age group. Young people’s health is moving up the national agenda but translating positive statements into practical responses remains the challenge, Dr Coleman concluded.

Other key trends outlined in the report include:
 A continuing fall in teenage conceptions, confirmed again recently by the publication of the 2012 statistics in early 2014. In 2012, 27.9 per 1000 young women under 18 (15-17 inclusive) became pregnant in England and Wales, a fall of 10% from 2011, and a reduction of over 40% since 1998. This is the lowest rate since records began in 1969. We should note that these are overall trends and there are notable regional and local variations.
 Continuing falls in overall rates of smoking, confirmed again in the latest survey from the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which noted that in 2013 less than a quarter (22%) of secondary school pupils had tried smoking at least once. By comparison in 1996 nearly half the age group had tried smoking at least once.
 Continuing falls in the prevalence of drinking alcohol in the last week, which in 2013 was at the lowest levels since 2000, reported by 9% of both boys and girls aged 11-15. Respective rates in 2000 were 28% and 25%.
 Continuing falls in illegal drug use, which in 2013 was at its lowest level since 2001, with 16 per cent of secondary school pupils ever having taken drugs, 11% in the last year and 6% in the last month.
 A lack of new information on many mental health problems. There have been no new nationally representative data since 2004, when some behavioural and emotional problems in 11-15 year olds looked as if they were levelling off. A new national survey was a key recommendation in the Chief Medical Officer’s 2013 report.
 Stability in age-specific suicide rates for 15-29 year olds since the mid 2000s. In 2011 the rate for young men was 13.3 per 100,000, and for young women it was 4 per 100,000.22 It is likely that economic factors play a role, however, and keeping a watching brief on these rates is critically important given the fragile economic situation for young people currently entering the labour market.
 A possible levelling off in obesity. In 2012-13, the proportion of obese children aged 10-11 as recorded in the Child Measurement Programme was 19%, the same as 2011-12, although still higher than five years previously. These figures need to be treated cautiously as it is not clear if this trend will continue, and of course ultimately the aim will be to reduce levels of obesity rather than hold them constant.
 Stability in hospital admissions in England among 10-19 year olds because of diabetes and epilepsy. Diabetes hospital admissions for this age group which have remained at just over 7,000 young people per year since 2006, and epilepsy admissions at just over 5,000 per year. Trends in emergency hospital admissions for young people aged 10-14 have also remained steady across this period since the mid 2000s. Rises that have been noted in the press actually relate to younger children, or to years prior to 2007.
 No identifiable trend in the average alcohol consumption by pupils who had drunk in the last week – the 2013 data suggested the average was 8.2 units, which for the first time falls just below the range for this figure over the previous five years, which was from 10.4 to 14.6 units.
 Levelling off in chlamydia diagnoses for 15-24 year olds, which stood at 136,000 diagnoses in 2012 (a rate of 1,979 per 100,000 population). In 2011, a total of 147,000 diagnoses were made in this age group (2,148 per 100,000). The longer term trends are difficult to determine because of the push to increase screening and testing in the late 2000s.
 Rises in self harm have just been reported in early release data from the 2013 survey for the Health Behaviour in School Aged Children study. The full report is due out later in the year, but initial (unpublished) reports suggest that 20% of 15 year olds hurt themselves in the previous year (cutting, biting and burning), compared with 7% in the last comprehensive survey of self-harm in this age group in 2002.

To download the report in full visit: www.ayph.org.uk/publications/553_yp%20health%20update%202014%20updated%2013%20August.pdf