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What are health inequalities and why do they matter for young people?

Source: Young Peoples Health 14.12.21



According to the Association of Young People’s Health, Covid-19 has exacerbated health inequalities amongst young people in the UK, with those from disadvantaged backgrounds or minority groups being disproportionately affected. Young people have experienced huge upheavals during this period, with unprecedented changes to education, university, employment opportunities and their social lives. 

There are differences in young people’s health now, in the present. A really clear example of this is the latest data on the number of 10-11 year olds in England who are overweight or obese. 33.8% of young people who live in the most deprived areas are classified as obese, compared to 14.3% of those in the least deprived areas. Other health topics reflect similar trends in young people’s health.

The health of young people now influences their ability to form a solid foundation for a healthy future. Poor health developed in adolescence can lead to health conditions later in life. The health behaviours young people form and their ability to manage their own health conditions are crucial for determining their future health.

Health inequalities are caused by the economic inequalities in society. Access to financial resources allows young people to live healthy lives. However, it is known that child poverty rates are high and the number of secondary school pupils claiming free school meals has risen from 12.4% in 2018 to 18.9% in 2021.  The “social determinants” of health that affect young people are complex, multiple, and overlapping factors. However: education, employment, geography, physical environment, housing, and transport are particularly relevant.

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