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Physical health conditions

Although the years 10-24 tend to be a time of good physical health, many young people will experience a range of short term physical health problems.  A significant minority will have long-term chronic conditions or some kind of disability.

Young people aged 16-20 are the group most likely to be diagnosed with asthma

Long-term conditions

Overall approximately a quarter of young people have some kind of long-term health condition, although estimates vary depending on the survey and how the are questions asked. The long-term conditions reported include autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, other long-term conditions such as asthma, and illnesses such as cancer.

Overall, results for England from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study (HBSC) undertaken in 2018 found that 23% of young people aged 11-15 reported that they had a long-term illness, disability or medical condition (Brooks et al, 2020). The Northern Irish Young Person’s Behaviour and Attitude Survey (2019), shown in Chart 4.1, found a similar proportion of 11-16 year olds (27.5%) reported having a condition that was lasting or was expected to last 12 months or more (NISRA, 2020), the most common of which were acne, depression, migraines, allergies and asthma.

Long-term conditions reported by young people in Northern Ireland

Estimates for young people aged 16-24 suggest that long-term conditions are more prevalent in this age group. Data from the Health Survey for England (2018) and the England and Wales GP survey (2021) suggest that between 29% (HSE) and 34% (GP survey) of 16-24 year olds have a long-term physical or mental health condition, disability or illness. Chart 4.2 shows the most common conditions reported by 16-25 year olds in the GP survey. These included mental health problems, asthma, autism, learning disabilities and arthritis.

The most common long-term conditions reported by young people in England and Wales

In the next sections we look in more detail at some long-term conditions experienced particularly by young people. 

All data correct as of 1st November 2021