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5 International comparisons of health and wellbeing in adolescence and early adulthood
  1. R Shah,
  2. A Hagell
  1. Research, Association for Young People’s Health, London, UK


Aim To provide a snapshot of how the UK compares internationally with similar high-income countries in relation to young people’s (YP’s) health measures.

Methods Undertaken in partnership with The Nuffield Trust, AYPH undertook a descriptive study comparing health and wellbeing indicators for YP in the UK to 18 other high-income countries. Publicly available international datasets were used for these analyses. Some of the 17 areas of comparison included obesity, long-standing illness, deprivation, adolescent birth rate, asthma death rate, diabetes, cancer mortality, smoking, alcohol consumption, overall mortality and transport injury death.


  • The UK has the highest rate of deaths from asthma for YP aged 10–24, compared to all European countries in the comparative group, and the fourth highest overall behind the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

  • As well as having the highest rates of obesity in 15– to 19–year–olds compared to the 14 European countries in the comparative group, the UK also has one of the greatest differences in obesity levels between YP living in the poorest areas of the country and the richest.

  • YP in the UK have a higher burden of disease from long term conditions such as diabetes than some of their peers in other countries.

  • The UK is in the middle of the pack compared to other countries on some indicators for YP, including cancer mortality, smoking, alcohol consumption and cannabis use. Trends in health–related behaviours such as smoking, and alcohol consumption have been falling internationally in recent years, reflected in the UK statistics.

  • The UK has some of the lowest rates of road traffic injury deaths, which have also been steadily improving over time.

  • Overall, the UK performs in the top third of countries on mortality rates for 10–to 19–year–olds. Recently, however, progress has stalled and for YP aged 20–24 got worse between 2013 and 2016.

Conclusions Although there are some positive findings, the UK’s performance on many indicators for this age-group are lagging behind that of similar high-income countries. An increased policy focus is required on this age-group if these worrying trends are to be reversed.

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