Adolescence is a critical period for establishing positive lifestyle habits that can lay the foundation for future health and wellbeing. The What About YOUth (WAY) survey provides an overview of self-reported health behaviours amongst a random selection of 15-year-olds across each local authority in England. The Association for Young People’s Health also publish Key Data on Adolescence with the support of the National Child and Maternal Health Intelligence Network, Public Health England. Understanding the lifestyle of this cohort can help local authority commissioners, service providers and third sector organisations to determine local priorities and drive improvements in outcome measures.
The latest profile indicates that Derby performs comparably with the national and regional averages across many general health, diet and physical activity indicators. 84.2% of children reported their general health as excellent or good, which is similar to the England average of 85.0%. In addition, 13.6% report engaging in three or more risky behaviours, which is similar to the national average of 15.9%. A clustering of risky behaviours amongst children and young people is associated with a range of negative outcomes such as poor educational attainment and emotional health problems.
The Department of Health recommend that children and adolescents undertake at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Nationally, there is evidence that physical activity declines across adolescence. In Derby, the percentage of 15-year-olds who reported being physically active for one hour per day every day within the past 7 days in 2014/15 was comparable with the national average (14.8% compared with 13.9%; Public Health England, 2015).
Smoking is the primary cause of preventable illness and premature mortality. Locally, the percentage of current, regular and occasional smokers is comparable with the national and regional averages. There is national evidence that teenagers are more likely to use e-cigarettes for experimentation than smoking cessation. Locally, the proportion who have tried e-cigarettes is significantly higher than the national and regional average.
Previous research indicates that young people who start drinking at an early age are likely to drink more regularly and in larger quantities than those who start drinking later in life. Derby performs significantly better than the national average across its indicators for alcohol consumption in young people. For example, 4.7% of 15-year-olds in Derby are regular drinkers, which is lower than the England average of 6.2%. Additionally, 11.3% report having been drunk in the last four weeks, which is significantly lower than the national average of 14.6%.
In terms of drug use, cannabis alone is the most common drug used amongst 15-year-olds in England. Locally, 9.6% of 15-year-olds report having ever tried cannabis, which is comparable with the national average of 10.7%.
Having a positive body image during adolescence plays an important role in self-efficacy and overall life satisfaction. Locally, 52.6% of children reported that they felt that their body was ‘about the right size’, which is comparable with the England value of 52.4%. Bullying also poses significant risks to the mental health and educational attainment of pupils. In Derby, 55.3% of children reported they had been bullied in the past couple of months, and 9.0% had bullied others. These values are comparable with the national average.