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Good news for young Scots' lungs and teeth

Young people are smoking less and drinking fewer fizzy drinks, but report links affluence to inequality in health

Young people are smoking less and drinking fewer fizzy drinks, but report links affluence to inequality in health

Young people in Scotland are more satisfied with life than many of their counterparts in Europe, according to a new study.

The findings, announced this week, suggested that Scottish youngsters were performing well at school and were generally happy with their lot, thanks to a good, close network of friends.

Trends in Scotland also showed young people were smoking less, cutting their cannabis use, drinking fewer soft (fizzy) drinks and brushing their teeth more.

However, the picture was not all rosy; 15-year-old girls in Scotland were drinking and having unprotected sex more than many of their European counterparts, and Scotland was rated poorly in levels of physical activity. The report also linked inequalities in the health of young Scots to family affluence.

"The difference between high affluence and low affluence girls is about 13 per cent in terms of the percentage saying they are very satisfied with their lives," said Candace Currie, international coordinator of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study at the University of St Andrews.

The new HBSC report, published by the WHO (World Health Organisation) European Office, is based on a wide-ranging survey conducted in 2009- 10.

The research, which has taken place every four years since 1996, provides a health check of young people aged 11, 13 and 15 across 39 countries.

Jo Inchley, assistant director of the Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit at the University of St Andrews, which conducts the Scottish study, commented: "Despite having typical teen problems such as poor communication with parents, Scottish youngsters are generally a sociable bunch and not at all isolated."

Young Scots ranked themselves particularly highly in the use of electronic media such as Facebook and texting, but this may not be a bad thing, pointed out Dr Inchley.

"They are spending more time with their friends than ever, but the changing nature of communication means that a lot of that is done remotely," she said.

Professor Currie added: "The areas that are disappointing are in sexual health, alcohol intake and exercise, which policymakers will need to take a good look at."

emma.seith@tess.co.uk

LETTUCE CELEBRATE

Scottish teenagers are eating more fruit and vegetables and fewer crisps, chips and sweets, according to new research.

This might mean that strategies, such as free-fruit initiatives, breakfast clubs, and the integration of health and well-being into the school curriculum were working, said the University of St Andrews academics who examined adolescent eating behaviour between 2002 and 2010.

However, young people from poorer families had consistently worse eating habits than those in more affluent families. Alongside whole-population programmes, initiatives should be targeted at more deprived groups, concluded the researchers.

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