Teenage alcohol consumption has halved in the UK in the last decade, but drunkenness persists, according to the report. Photograph: Image Source/Corbis
British teenagers feel pressured at school, worry they are too fat and drink too much alcohol, according to an international study that finds they are among the least satisfied with their lives compared with their peers around the world.
Researchers who conducted the study of children in 42 countries said 15-year-old girls in England, Wales and Scotland appeared to be at particular risk, suffering from high levels of stress and worries about health.
The World Health Organisation report found that 15-year-olds in England and Wales were among the least likely to report high levels of satisfaction with their lives, with only children from Poland and Macedonia being less satisfied.
Teenage boys and girls in England, Scotland andWales were also among the most stressed at school, with Scottish 15-year-olds feeling most pressured by schoolwork in the UK and coming second only to Malta. Eight out of ten 15-year-old girls in Scotland said they felt pressured by schoolwork, compared with 59% of boys.
England’s teenagers, meanwhile, ranked fifth on the international table, with 73% of 15-year-old girls and 52% of boys the same age feeling pressured by schoolwork. In Wales, 67% of girls and 52% of boys complained of pressure.
Dr Joanna Inchley, the deputy director of the child and adolescent health research unit at the University of St Andrews, said researchers were struck by the decline in life satisfaction among young people between the ages of 11 and 15.
“Particularly concerning is the increase in school-related stress which may be contributing to poorer mental wellbeing, especially among 15-year-old girls. It is essential that we look at ways of providing support to young people to help them navigate the challenges they face during adolescence.”
The study of almost 220,000 young people across Europe and North America found that girls reported poorer mental health than boys. By the age of 15, 20% of girls described their health as fair or poor, while half experienced multiple health complaints more than once a week.
Obesity is higher among boys, yet girls were more likely to think they were fat, with a quarter of 15-year-old girls being on a diet. In England, 50% of girls and 25% of boys were concerned they were too fat, higher than the international average of 43% for girls and 22% for boys. In Scotland, 55% of girls and 27% of boys said they were too fat, compared with 52% of girls and 30% of boys in Wales.
One UK success story is that rates of weekly drinking and smoking have halved in the last decade, but the report still showed that drunkenness among British teenagers persists, with a third of 15-year-olds in Scotland having been drunk twice or more. England is the only country where significantly more girls report getting drunk on more than two occasions than boys: 31% compared with 25%.
Teenagers in the UK also seem to like school less than peers elsewhere in the world. Just 16% of girls and 22% of boys in England said they liked school a lot, compared with the international average of 24% for girls and 22% for boys.
Internationally, sexual activity appears to have declined, with the rate for boys dropping from 29% to 24% and for girls from 23% to 17%. Boys were more likely than girls to say they had experienced sexual activity, except in England and Wales where girls reported it more.
Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO European regional director, said: “Health behaviours and social habits and attitudes acquired in the critical second decade of a young person’s life can carry on into adulthood and affect the entire life-course.
“Despite considerable advances in adolescent health, such as the welcome reduction in adolescent smoking behaviours, many still face huge inequities; girls and children from lower-income families consistently report poorer physical and mental health and lower rates of physical activities than boys and children from more affluent families.”
Fazit: Neoliberalismus führt die Schwächsten in den Suff.