Australian researchers have found that the health of adolescents is declining, as the rates of obesity, depression and diabetes rise. National health statistics have shown that life expectancy has increased, death rates have declined and 90 per cent of adolescents rate their health as "excellent".
However, Richard Eckersley, population health expert from the Australian National University and an author of the study, has revealed these historical measures of health do not fully represent the wider issues of chronic health problems and the impact of social, cultural and environmental changes on health. He said that other statistics show key aspects of teenagers' mental and physical health are in dropping.
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported mental illness in adolescents as an area of significant concern. During the research, it was found that there were more than 47,000 teenagers admitted in the hospital in 2004-05, over half for psychoactive substance use, schizophrenia and depression.
"Many of the behaviours, attitudes and risk factors that determine adult health are established during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. "What the evidence is showing us is that progress, as we pursue it, is not serving us as well as we thought," he added. He said that in order to combat the trend, Australian authorities must focus on a preventative health approach, which considers not just individual illnesses, but wider adverse social trends contributing to poor health outcomes for youth.
"The politics of health should be much more than the politics of healthcare services. Better health, not greater wealth, should be the defining goal of government," he said. "The two aims are not the same thing; in fact they may be increasingly at odds," he added. The new research is published in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health.