Leading independent charity the Health Foundation warns future health of the next generation at risk due to lack of opportunities in home towns. 

More than 4 in 5 young people would miss their families, friends and support networks if they moved away from their home town, with a fifth (19%) also missing the sense of belonging they have in their community, says new research.

Despite this, over half (53%) of young people say they have moved or plan to move away, and of these two-thirds (63%) say they do not intend to, or don’t know if they will, return.

The Health Foundation is warning that the core building blocks for a healthy future - a place to call home, potential for secure and rewarding work, and supportive relationships with their friends, family and community - are too often forgotten.

In their new report, "A Place To Grow", published today, part of its major UK-wide Young people’s future health inquiry, the Health Foundation investigates some of the key issues impacting young people’s successful transition into adulthood, identifying:

  • Young people’s identity is in part formed by their sense of place. Places therefore have an essential role in creating resilient young people who are set up to thrive.
  • The current economic climate is putting many families under intense pressure, meaning many young people are not getting crucial support at home.
  • Expensive or inaccessible transport options are creating a barrier to education and employment for many young people in their own areas.
  • Youth services are hugely valued by young people but have been drastically reduced in many communities and poor communication is stifling access to the support that is available – this issue is particularly acute for mental health support.
  • Rising pressure on academic performance in schools is enforcing a results-driven culture, with insufficient focus on real work experience and practical life skills. Young people highlighted this as a key factor for their mental health.

Over 600 young people aged between 16 and 24 from five distinct areas around the UK - ranging from rural, sparsely populated places to inner city, ethnically diverse areas - took part in a programme of site visits as part of the inquiry to understand what life is like for young people today.

Jo Bibby, Director of Health at the Health Foundation, commented:

“Whether a young person grows up in a way that supports them to have a healthy future is a complex issue, but one which it is essential to address. Young people today face opportunities and challenges that are vastly different to those of their parents or carers.

“Across the places we went we met passionate young people with drive to improve their communities. Our towns and cities have an untapped resource of engaged and optimistic young people who have the potential to make vast contributions to their communities if given the chance. However, this new research suggests that the health and wellbeing of young people across the UK is already being eroded, with inadequate support systems and increased pressures on mental health at home and school. This means many are facing a potential future of poor health.

“Our recommendations for change, due in 2019 will demonstrate what’s needed to ensure the next generation is given the right opportunity to flourish.”

Julia Unwin CBE, strategic advisor to the inquiry, commented:

“The health of its young people is one of the biggest assets a country holds, determining its future wellbeing, costs and productivity. While recent gains made in young people’s health are significant, not enough is being done during these formative years to ensure a healthy transition into adulthood. It is a major concern that their futures are being impacted by the economies of their home towns.”

The inquiry is a two-year research and engagement programme exploring the support 12–24 year-olds need to enter adulthood with the core building blocks for a healthy future. The initial findings published in the report Listening to our Future earlier this year, found that young people do not currently have access to the assets needed to access these building blocks – emotional support; appropriate skills and qualifications; personal connections; and financial and practical support – putting them at risk of poor health later in life.

ABOUT THE SITE VISIT PROGRAMME: The Health Foundation hosted five site visits as part of the inquiry across the UK in Bradford (England), Denbighshire (North Wales), Bristol (England), North Ayrshire (Scotland) and Lisburn (Northern Ireland) between June and October 2018.

Young ‘peer researchers’ were recruited in each area to lead on a research programme with other young people living in the local area, and telephone interviews with local system leaders were conducted by the Health Foundation. The visits culminated in a local youth-led tour and workshop where the young people and system leaders came together to discuss the findings and develop recommendations for improving young people’s experiences and future health.

The process of area selection for the site visits was based on UK-wide Office of National Statistics data to ensure a geographical spread and mix of rural and urban environments. Further research on each Local Authority was conducted, including a review of its Children and Young People’s strategy and analysis of existing contacts within the area, to confirm the final selected locations. 

ABOUT THE HEALTH FOUNDATION: An independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK.

Our aim is a healthier population, supported by high quality health care that can be equitably accessed. We learn what works to make people’s lives healthier and improve the health care system. From giving grants to those working at the front line to carrying out research and policy analysis, we shine a light on how to make successful change happen.

We make links between the knowledge we gain from working with those delivering health and health care and our research and analysis. Our aspiration is to create a virtuous circle, using what we know works on the ground to inform effective policymaking and vice versa.

We believe good health and health care are key to a flourishing society. Through sharing what we learn, collaborating with others and building people’s skills and knowledge, we aim to make a difference and contribute to a healthier population.

Survey conducted by Opinion Matters between 20 – 29 November 2018, with a sample of 1,000 UK respondents aged between 17-18 (born between 1 September 2000 and 31 August 2001 inclusive).

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