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International comparisons of health and wellbeing in adolescence and early adulthood

Young people aged 10–24 make up approximately a fifth of the population of most high-income countries and there are strong health and economic arguments for improving their health outcomes.

This report, published by the Nuffield Trust and the Association for Young People’s Health, summarises how 17 key indicators of the health and wellbeing of young people aged 10–24 vary in a selection of 19 similar high-income countries both within and outside of Europe.

The report provides an indication of where health outcomes for adolescents and young adults in the United Kingdom (UK) could be improved. Despite some successes, the UK’s performance on the 17 key health and wellbeing indicators highlighted in this report often lags behind that of the other 18 countries included in the analysis and there is much room for improvement.

The UK is performing least well in some areas, it has:

  • the highest rates of obesity for 15- to 19-year-olds among 14 European comparator countries
  • the highest inequalities in obesity prevalence between the richest and poorest, apart from Finland, in countries where data are available
  • the highest rate of young people aged 16–24 living with a longstanding condition among 14 European comparator countries apart from Finland and Sweden
  • low rates of engagement in exercise by 11-year-olds in England and Wales.