Department of Health and Social Care
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Top teen concerns are losing weight and fitting in

Top teen concerns are losing weight and fitting in

News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 08 September 2009

Embargoed for 00.01 Wednesday 9th September 2009 -

Troubled teens reveal social divide

Today’s teens are most worried about losing weight and fitting in. But more teenagers from low income families worry about bullying, drugs, and smoking compared to peers from high income families. Surveys for NHS Teen LifeCheck published today reveal social similarities and divides on some of the top teenage concerns.

Of the teenagers surveyed, almost double the number of teens from low income families worried about bullying. However, teens from higher income families are more likely to worry about peer pressure and fitting in.

The research shows:

Worry - Low income families - High income families Losing weight - 43% - 30%
Bullying - 41% - 21%
Drugs - 21% - 13%
Smoking - 19% - 10%
Fitting in - 32% - 40%
Peer pressure - 23% - 30%

Further research also shows that almost half (48%) of teens don’t feel they can talk to their friends about their worries because they think they’ll be considered silly or different, and nearly a third (31%) feel that their friends just wouldn’t understand.

The research was undertaken for the NHS Teen LifeCheck website on behalf of the Department of Health. This online service - www.teenlifecheck.co.uk - is aimed at teens with the highest risk of future ill health caused by their lifestyle choices. The website encourages them to complete its quiz and act on the results, and signposts people to support for issues like bullying.

In just three months, www.teenlifecheck.co.uk is already having a considerable impact. More than 100,000 teenagers have completed a LifeCheck, getting advice on topics like bullying and smoking as well as drugs, alcohol, personal safety, healthy eating and exercise. Today’s survey will inform the ongoing development of the site so it is up to date and meaningful to teenagers.

Public Health Minister, Gillian Merron, said:

"Whether teenagers are concerned about their weight or giving up smoking, nearly three quarters of them say they like to get confidential advice. NHS Teen LifeCheck gives teenagers the support to make decisions and choices that can help them to be healthy and happy."

www.teenlifecheck.co.uk is specifically targeted at young people (12-15) because research has shown that these are the ‘discovery years’, where young people are most likely to experiment. There is a greater opportunity for this age group to recognise and avoid risky behaviours or unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Youth worker Katharine Terrington, said:
"We tend to think that teens share all their worries with those closest to them, but this survey shows that many would find it difficult to talk about certain issues. It’s incredibly important to them to fit in with their mates and often they don’t know whether their worries are normal or not. That’s why a non-judgemental website like teenlifecheck.co.uk can be a huge help."

The simple, interactive quiz with multiple choice answers guides young people to tailored, non-judgemental feedback, provides top tips and then points them in the direction of more information and support such as www.talktoFrank.co.uk and Childline.

www.teenlifecheck.co.uk is one of a number of initiatives being introduced by the Government to help tackle health inequalities between high and low income families.

Many teens have commented on how helpful www.teenlifecheck.co.uk has been:

• "This really helps me because I’m suffering from a little bit of depression"
• "It helped me understand about being careful about what you do"
• "The LifeCheck helped me on areas to improve in my life."

Notes to Editors

For more information about NHS Teen LifeCheck please contact the Department of Health newsdesk on 0207 210 5221.

Research: Two surveys were conducted on behalf of the Department of Health:
• May-June 2009: 474 English 12- 15 year olds surveyed by TNS.
• August 2009: 1,012 UK 12-15 year olds surveyed by Opinion Matters
Comments from teenagers were made on www.piczo.com about NHS Teen LifeCheck

About NHS LifeCheck
• NHS LifeCheck informs, empowers and supports people in leading healthier lives. It helps them to understand how their current lifestyle choices may affect their long-term well-being and offers guidance in making small but effective changes
• In the public consultation “Your Health, Your Care, Your Say” people clearly expressed an interest in taking more responsibility for their health and wellbeing. Three quarters of participants identified regular health checks as a top priority to help them do this.
• In response, the 2006 Government White Paper ‘Our Health, Our Care, Our Say’ announced the development of three initial NHS LifeChecks:
- one for young people aged 12 - 15
- one for parents and carers with babies five - eight months old and
- one for the 45 - 60 years age group

Contacts:

Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221
NDS.DH@coi.gsi.gov.uk

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