Unattractive side to new portrait of young people
Illustration: Cathy Wilcox
A new portrait of young people shows they are better educated and smoking less but are increasingly overweight, using illicit drugs and drinking at risky levels.
Public health pioneer Fiona Stanley described the report, The Wellbeing of Young Australians, as a ''wake-up call'' to the nation.
The report, to be released by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth in Canberra on Friday, examined the concerns of young people, comparing how Australia ranks against other developed countries.
Australian young people rank in the top third of OECD countries in tertiary qualifications, low smoking rates and community participation. But they are only in the middle band when it comes to teen pregnancy, dental decay, overweight and obesity, youth suicide and cannabis use.
Australia is in the bottom third of countries for child abuse deaths, infant mortality, preschool participation and income equality.
Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth chief executive Lance Emerson said the report looked at five areas of wellbeing based on the views of 3700 young people and families.
He said the health of young Australians was a concern, with 30 per cent of five to 24-year-olds overweight or obese Seven per cent of 14-to-19-year-olds smoke daily but 18 per cent use illicit drugs and 15 per cent drink at risky levels.
Teenage birth rates are down, with only 4 per cent of teenagers giving birth in 2010, down from 5 per cent in 2001. While youth suicide rates have halved in the past decade, 12 per cent of young people reported high levels of psychological distress, a figure unchanged since 2007.
High school retention rates have increased to 79 per cent over the past decade but about 50 per cent of indigenous young people still do not finish school.