British teens top the league in alcohol and drug abuse

According to a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), when it comes to abusing alcohol and drugs, British teenagers are right up there, with Wales at the top of the league, ahead of Scotland, Estonia, England and Lithuania.

The survey 'Health Behaviour in School-aged Children' is based on the experiences of 250,000 teenagers age 11, 13 and 15 from 41 countries across Europe and North America, which examined aspects of health, including drinking, weight, smoking, school pressures and bullying.

Carried out in the year 2005-6, the survey revealed that more 15-year-old girls in Wales had tried cannabis than anywhere else in Europe and one in five 11-year-old girls in Wales are trying to lose weight, as are a quarter of 13-year-olds and nearly a third aged 15.

It was also found that more than a third of 15-year-old girls and a quarter of 15-year-old boys in Wales say they tried smoking at 13 or younger, figures similar to Scotland but higher than England.

The survey found children in England and Wales were under more pressure than almost every other country which took part and across the UK rated their own health "poorly" compared to other countries - they also found communicating with their parents difficult.

Welsh health authorities say reducing the underage consumption of alcohol is a key priority in tackling an increasing culture of binge drinking in Wales which leads to an increased risk of injury, unsafe sex, and serious health issues in later life.

A 10-year substance misuse strategy launched in February will focus on the inappropriate and risky use of alcohol.

The WHO report says that young people in the UK are becoming more independent of their families, turning to their friends for support and exposing themselves to higher risks than children and teenagers in other developed countries.

The report says any decline in home relationships has an impact on children's future relationships.

Although they are among the most affluent children in the survey young people in the UK face significant disadvantages with English schoolchildren among the most stressed in the world, possibly because of school testing.

Candace Currie, director of the Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit at the University of Edinburgh, and the report's lead author says there has been a shift and young people are getting their support from their school and peers rather than their home and parents.

The charity 4Children, says the amount of unsupervised time young people have is increasing due to a culture of longer working hours and families not having support.

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