SIXTEEN PLUS: Young People's health in the West of Scotland.

Published: 23 July 2002

Over 2,200 18 year olds invited to University of Glasgow over the summer to take part in a health survey.

Invitations have been sent to over 2,200 18-19 year olds living in and around Glasgow, inviting them to continue to take part in a health study of which they have been members since primary school. The study is one of only a very few that has followed such a large group of young people. It will keep on producing worthwhile information about young people's lives if as many as possible, from all areas and backgrounds, continue to take part.


Between 1994 and 1999, the 'West of Scotland 11 to 16 Study', funded by the Medical Research Council, followed up around 2,500 young people from their final year in primary school (P7) into their secondary schools, with contacts at S2 (age 13) and S4 (age 15). Altogether, 135 primary schools and 43 secondary schools in Glasgow and surrounding areas (East Dunbartonshire, North and South Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire) took part.

The study was set up in order to provide information on the health and health problems of pre-teens and teenagers.

At each stage, which took place in their schools, the young people filled in questionnaires, were interviewed by nurses and their height, weight and respiratory function (puff) were measured.

The response to the study was tremendous ヨ in P7 93% of eligible children took part, and 86% of their parents also filled in a questionnaire.

Findings from the study have been presented to researchers, teachers, youth workers, doctors, nurses and other health professionals, as well as to the local Health Boards, the Health Education Board for Scotland and the Scottish Executive.

Because of its success and the current interest in youth issues, the study is continuing, with the name '16+'. Those who took part are now aged 18-19, and have left school.

What's happening now?

Over the summer, a survey centre has been set up at Glasgow University and each study member has been sent an appointment at the same time as others from their old school.

At the survey centre they are interviewed and fill in questionnaires about their health and lives since leaving school. Facilities are available for interviewing 12 young people at a time.

Young people are a very mobile population, and it has been difficult to get in touch with all study members because their contact details have changed.

One of the study's directors, Dr Helen Sweeting of the MRC Social & Public Health Sciences Unit at Glasgow University said, 'This study is important because it has tracked young people over time. Each survey we do adds to our picture of changes from childhood to young adulthood. That's why it's vital that as many as possible take part this time. If there are 18-19 year olds who remember taking part in 'The 11 to 16 Study' at school, but who haven't heard from us, please get in touch on our Freephone number 0800 389 2129.'


Some results from the P7 (age 11), S2 (age 13) and S4 (age 15) surveys: HEALTH:

  • at 15 years of age, 22% of those surveyed had a long-term health problem (asthma was the most common), almost half of whom said it limited their activities;
  • over half reported aches, irritability, nervousness and colds, and three-quarters stomach aches or sickness, and headaches, in the past month;
  • at 11 years of age, girls were less likely to say they were very fit and healthy, and more likely to suffer from headaches, stomach problems, to feel nervous, worried or unhappy and to be dissatisfied with their looks and weight ヨ these differences between boys and girls all increased with age;
  • those who said their parents didn't understand their problems and worries and who felt lonely or were bullied were more likely to feel depressed.
  • at 15 years of age, only 44% ate breakfast on a daily basis, and 7% never ate it;
  • the numbers eating a healthy diet (more fruit and cereals, less fatty foods) dropped between 11 and 15;
  • 70% of girls and 23% of boys were worried about putting on weight; 26% of girls and 5% of boys said they were on a diet.
  • at 11 years of age, almost every child in the study was tremendously positive about sport, but despite this, one-third of boys and two-thirds of girls didn't think it was very likely that they would do sport or exercise once they had left school;
  • participation in all common sports except running or jogging dropped over the secondary school years;
  • the proportion reporting almost no involvement in exercise outwith school rose from 3% at 11 to over 10% at 15 ヨ these were more likely to be girls (18% compared with 4% boys), smokers, worried about their weight, to feel depressed and to have few friends.
  • by 15 years of age, 25% smoked, 25% drank weekly, 18% said they had been 'really drunk' ten or more times, 40% had tried drugs and 30% in the past year;
  • girls were more likely to be smokers, boys to drink more frequently and to have tried drugs in the past year;
  • smoking, drinking and experience of drugs were more likely among those who spent time hanging round the street, who said their parents didn't know where they went in the evenings, and who thought school was a waste of time.


Media Relations Office (

For further details, please contact:

Dr Helen Sweeting, (unavailable 26-29th July) MRC Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, G12 8RZ.

tel: 0141-357 3949

fax: 0141 337 2389

Alternatively, enquiries can be directed to the University of Glasgow Press Office on 0141 330 3535.

First published: 23 July 2002

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