Relationships - good for your health

Elephant friends

Photo: hyper7pro

A report out from Public Health England has highlighted some good news about the state of young people's health:

  • The proportions of 10-24 year-olds who drink, smoke and take drugs has reduced in recent years
  • The number of teenage pregnancies has fallen significantly

But it also brings some less good news:

  • Despite big reductions since 1998, teen birth rates and abortion rates in the UK continue to be the highest in Europe
  • The proportion of children drinking alcohol in the UK is well above the European average
  • British children are more likely to binge drink or get drunk than those in most other European countries
  • More than one in three 11-15 year-olds in England are overweight or obese
  • Only 14% if boys and 8% of girls meet recommended physical activity levels
  • 10% of school pupils aged 5-16 suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder - approximately three in every class
  • 1:7 children have long-term health conditions includeing asthma and diabetes
  • Between 6% and 20% may have self-harmed

Why do relationships matter so much?

'Young people's mental and physical health are intertwined,' the report says, 'and at the heart of health and wellbeing are their relationships with others.'

These relationships can be with friends, family, romantic and/or sexual partners, teachers or role models. Good relationships help young people to get through tough times and enable them to feel confident, competent and creative. 

Where does this leave parents?

The report recommends that parents and other adults focus on the positive contributions of young people, emphasizing the great things they do - as volunteers, unpaid carers or simply helping each other. Young people can feel under a lot of pressure; they sometimes feel unfairly judged. Parents should urge them to celebrate and enjoy their relationships with others.

Of course, relationships can be a cause of trouble, as well as a benefit - but the basic story seems to be that parents should encourage their children to look for people that make them feel good about themselves and treasure their relationships with them, because these are so often crucial to strengthening their resilience and helping them to cope. 

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