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Public health outcomes

In this section we present data for some of the public health outcomes that are most relevant to young people 10-24, particularly those relating to health behaviours.  Separate sections present data on life expectancy, mental health and sexual health.

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


In adolescence one of the physiological changes that occurs is a natural shift in the timing of the body clock, usually by an hour or two. We see this in the timing of melatonin release, the ‘sleep hormone’, with adolescents’ levels rising, and peaking, later than adults (Onaolapo and Onaolapo, 2017). This means that young people in their teenage years feel sleepy later in the evening and are less awake in the mornings compared to adults. There is increasing evidence that adequate sleep is one of the key contributors to adolescent health and wellbeing (Gireesh, Das and Viner, 2018; Chaput and Dutil, 2016; Medic, Wille and Hemels, 2017).

There is no ‘set’ amount of sleep required by a young person but the average recommended number of hours of sleep required by young people aged 14-17 is between 8-10 hours a night (National Sleep Foundation, 2015). Chart 2.18 shows the percentage of young people in years 6 (age 10-11), 8 (age 12-13) and 10 (age 14-15) who report getting 8-9 hours or 10+ hours, based on surveys by the Exeter Schools Health Unit. The total proportions who have 8 or more hours sleep drops quite considerably by age 10, particularly for girls.

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

The Exeter School Health Survey asked secondary school pupils whether they got enough sleep for their health. In 2020, only 58% of Year 10 boys and 38% of year 10 girls felt that they did (Balding and Regis 2020).

Repeated YouGov surveys have measured the sleep of 16-24 year olds across the months of the Covid-19 pandemic. Each ‘curve’ on the chart shows the distribution of sleep for the age group in one month. Overall this age group gets approximately 7 hours sleep. As time goes by, the peak of the curve moves to the right – suggesting an increase in sleep as the pandemic progressed.

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

All data correct as of 1st November 2021