Young people better educated, fewer using substances, but weight and diet remain a concern

New data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show that overall, young Australians are doing well. Rates for smoking, single-occasion risky drinking and illicit drug use are decreasing; however, overweight and obesity rates remain high, and fruit and vegetable consumption remains low.

The Youth indicators data portal allows the user to examine the progress made over time in the health and wellbeing of young people aged 12 to 24 years in 38 key areas of health and social determinants including death and suicide rates, rates of self-harm, substance use, obesity and physical inactivity rates and educational outcomes.

'Overall youth death rates have been declining since 2003, with a large reduction in land transport deaths among young males,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

Deaths from suicide have varied between 7 and 9 deaths per 100,000 young people since 2003, with suicide rates highest in the 18-24 year age group. The rate of suicide among young males (aged 12-24) was almost twice that of young females.

'However, the rate of hospitalisations for intentional self-harm for females aged 12-24 years was 3 times the rate for males in the same age group,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

'Some of these hospitalisations could have been attempted suicides, and it is important to continue to focus on interventions that seek to minimise both self-harm and suicide.'

Rates of illicit drug use, smoking and risky drinking levels all improved. The proportion of young people who smoked daily decreased from 19% in 2001 to 9.1% in 2013, while the proportion of young people (aged 12-17) who abstained from drinking alcohol increased from 54% in 2004 to 72% in 2013.

'Despite a decrease in the proportion of young people with sedentary behaviour from 33% in 2007-08 to 27% in 2011-12, currently around a third of 12-24 year olds are overweight or obese,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

'And only a third of young people in this age group eat enough fruit, and less than one in ten consume enough vegetables.'

Today's statistics also show a steady increase in the proportion of young people aged 20-24 with either a Year 12 qualification, Certificate II or higher, up from 81% in 2004 to 86% in 2014. The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students attaining their Year 12, Certificate II qualification or higher has also been reduced by 12 percentage points- from 40 percentage points in 2008 to 28 percentage points in 2012-13.

'The Australian government target to halve the Year 12 attainment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous 20-24 year olds by 2020 is currently on track,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

Despite these improvements, today's release also shows that overall, more than 1 in 10 young people aged 15-24 were not in education, employment or training in 2014.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

View the Youth indicators data portal online.

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