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Mental health concerns rising in European adolescents

Wednesday May 20th, 2020

A new Europe-wide report has reported the state of schoolchildren’s health in 45 countries, raising concerns about increasing problems with mental health.

The World Health Organisation report, released yesterday (19 May), covers physical health, social relationships and mental wellbeing.

The international ‘Health Behaviour in School-aged Children’ study includes information on 227,441 children aged 11, 13 and 15, from 2014 to 2018. It shows that mental wellbeing falls between ages 11 and 15, especially for girls.

About a quarter of all adolescents say they feel nervous or irritable, or have difficulty getting to sleep at least once a week. However there is substantial variation across countries, which the authors suggest is due to cultural, policy and economic factors.

Dr Hans Kluge of the WHO says: “That increasing numbers of boys and girls across the European Region are reporting poor mental health - feeling low, nervous or irritable - is a concern for us all.

“Investing in young people by, for example, ensuring they have easy access to mental health services appropriate to their needs, will buy a triple dividend: bringing health, social and economic gains to today’s adolescents, tomorrow’s adults and future generations.”

The report also shows that adolescents in a third of the countries felt an increase in school pressure and dislike of school, both increasing with age.

Digital technology was found to have positive benefits, but it can increase vulnerability and pose new threats such as cyberbullying, disproportionately affecting girls.

Researcher Dr Jo Inchley of the University of Glasgow, UK, said: “We must take this message seriously, as good mental health is an essential part of healthy adolescence.”

Risk-taking behaviour, poor nutrition and physical inactivity were also identified as core challenges, the authors add.

Spotlight on adolescent health and well-being. Findings from the 2017/2018 Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey in Europe and Canada. WHO 19 May 2020.

Tags: Child Health | Europe | Mental Health

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