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USING HEALTH DATA IN THE CLASSROOM

With the introduction of statutory health education in secondary schools in England and Wales from September 2020, there is a need for student and teacher friendly, authoritative and robust sources of data to underpin lesson plans.

In this section we make suggestions about how to use AYPH’s Key Data on Young People to inform health education teaching for secondary school students, according to the current English/Welsh curriculum.

We’re very pleased to have worked with the PSHE Association in preparing these pages, and their website provides additional lesson plans and other resources. 

“High quality, evidence-based and age-appropriate teaching of these subjects can help prepare pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.”

Secretary of State, Department for Education

Using real world data can help to introduce students to complex social issues.  It can help them to understand their own experiences against the backdrop of data about their age group. Data can bring things to life and spur on conversations and debate. They can provide raw material to use as a jumping off point for more nuanced discussion. Using data and charts also introduces ideas around how to interpret and challenge quantitative information – important parts of data literacy. 

There are lots of data about young people’s health publicly available, but they are not always easy to find. In our ‘Key Data for Young People’ resource we have tried to information together.  In this section, we have taken some of the key findings that seem to be most useful in terms of teaching the health education curriculum in England and Wales

Mental health and wellbeing

There is much debate about young people’s mental health, and we know this is a topic of great importance to young people themselves. Mental health problems have important implications for every aspect of young people’s lives. The mental health and wellbeing parts of the PSHE curriculum for secondary school include mental wellbeing statistics. We have selected some that might be particularly relevant for this section of the health curriculum.

It is important to know that the majority of young people rate their own wellbeing as good – for example in surveys by the Office for National Statistics, over 70% of young people say they are satisfied with their lives, are living worthwhile lives, were happy yesterday, and are happy with their appearance.

10-15 year olds generally rate their own wellbeing as good

14.5 years, The peak age of onset for mental health problems

However, the teenage years see the start of mental health problems for some young people. Half of all mental health problems usually start before the age of 18, and a peak age of onset at 14.5 years. Mental health disorders increase in the early teens for both genders, and then continue increasing into the late teens for young women.

Mental health disorders increase in the early teens for both genders, and then continue increasing into the late teens for young women

The problems experienced vary a little by gender, with girls experiencing more depression and anxiety than boys, and boys having more problems with behaviour.

The types of disorders experienced vary by gender in 11-16 year old

In the years before the pandemic, there was evidence from repeated, large surveys that mental health problems had risen slightly for 11-15 year olds between 1999 and 2017, although perhaps not as much as people thought.

Mental health problems have risen in 11-15 year olds

During the Covid-19 lockdown (July 2020) 1 in 6 (17.6%) of 11-16 year olds and 1 in 5 (20%) 17-22 year olds were identified as having a probable mental disorder

 

The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 seems to have increased the risk of mental health problems, at least for some groups of young people. The rates are not directly comparable with the previous chart, as they measure ‘probable’ mental disorder, rather than definite disorder.

 

 

Only 19 in 1000 children and young people under 18 were on the community mental health services caseload in England in 2019

The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 seems to have increased the risk of mental health problems, at least for some groups of young people.  The rates are not directly comparable with the previous chart, as they measure ‘probable’ mental disorder, rather than definite disorder.

 

For more information on mental health and wellbeing, see the Key Data website pages on Mental health and Service use.

Physical health and fitness

Young people’s activity levels are critical to their overall health.  Current UK guidelines for young people recommend at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.  But just under half of secondary school pupils manage this much.

Chart 2.1: On average just under half of 10-16 year olds achieve recommended daily physical activity levels

For secondary school children (11-16), the main mode of transport to school is walking (39%) followed by travel by car/van (26%) and local bus (23%).

Walking to and from school is a good way of getting exercise. It is the most common way for secondary age pupils to get to school.

For more information on physical health and fitness, see the Key Data website pages on Population and overall health (including mortality statistics) and Public health outcomes.

Health and prevention

There are lots of important ways of protecting your health for the future, including sleep and diet.

In adolescence there is a natural shift in the body clock, so that young people feel sleepy later in the evening and are less awake in the morning than adults.  However getting enough sleep is vital to health.  Most people need between 8-10 hours of sleep every night when they are in their teens.  Many do not get this much.  As people go from Year 6, through Year 8 and to Year 10, the among of sleep they get tends to fall.

Chart 2.18: As young people get older they report having less sleep at night

The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 seemed to increase young people’s sleep a bit.  By June 2021, more were getting 8 hours sleep than they were in March 2020.

Chart 2.19: Sleep of 18-24 year olds improved during the Covid-19 pandemic

1 in 8 young people in the UK eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day

Diet is also critical to good health. Very few young people are eating enough fruit and vegetables.

For more information on health and prevention, see the Key Data website pages on Public health outcomes.