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YOUTH 2004 - research finding

18-year olds are in good health, yet still have some health problems

Nine out of ten 18-19-year olds reckon that they are in good health. However, many of these have pollen allergies and some experience pain and psychological distress. This is shown in the results from a study of 18-19-year olds in Oslo and Hedmark.

Previously, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) carried out health studies among 15-16-year olds in five counties. For the first time, results are available from a 2004 health questionnaire among Norwegian 18-19-year olds in Oslo and Hedmark, a county in eastern Norway. The project is a result of collaboration between the NIPH and the Institute of General Practice and Community Medicine at the University of Oslo.

More than 4700 youths took part, of which 3775 were from Oslo and 952 from Hedmark. They completed a questionnaire about illness, problems, use of health services, stress and lifestyle.

– Some of the participants in the 18-19-year old study also took part in the 15-16-year old study in 2001, although there are many new participants, says Bjørn Heine Strand from the Department for Health Statistics at the NIPH.

The institute has presented the main figures from the study of 18-19-year olds. In addition, a range of projects are ongoing where researchers are performing more detailed analysis of, among others, mental health, use of medicinal drugs, health in different ethnic youth groups in Oslo, changes in body mass index, alcohol usage, physical activity, pain problems and bullying. For the group who took part in the health study from 2000/2001, changes in health and lifestyle habits can be studied.

One in three have pollen allergy

In both counties, approximately 90 percent say that they are in good health. At the same time, one in seven reports asthma problems and 35-40 percent have pollen allergies or hay fever. These are self-reported figures from the questionnaires and the information is not confirmed by a medical examination or similar.

There were especially many girls who complain of pain; two out of three report that in the last year they have had headaches, and about half have had pain in the neck, shoulders, back or abdomen. Among boys the figures are significantly lower.

Girls often have psychological distress

The questionnaire contains ten questions about mental health, such as anxiety, depression, sleep problems and tension. The questions are probably more suited to discover problems in girls than in boys. A simpler way is to ask the question ”In the last 12 months have you had mental problems that you have sought help for?” Also this way of asking about mental health gives a higher response among girls than boys.

For adults, an average value of 1.85 or higher indicates that the person has psychological distress (the "ten questions" instrument). There is uncertainty where the boundary is for youths. The results show an average value of 1.70 for girls and 1.38 for boys. For both boys and girls the score is somewhat higher in Oslo than in Hedmark, but in both counties the score is below the threshold for ”psychological distress.” This is in line with nine out of ten saying they generally have good health.

Overall, one in eight, or 12-13 percent of girls and four percent of boys, report that they have had so many problems that they have sought help during the last year.

In total, between 4 and 7 percent have reading and writing difficulties (dyslexia). A greater proportion of boys than girls are affected.