Chemmie Squier | Acting Fashion & Beauty Editor | Monday, 17 August 2015

New Report On Teens Shows A Decline In Alcohol And Drugs But A Rise In Self-Harm And Eating Disorders

New Report On Teens Shows A Decline In Alcohol And Drugs But A Rise In Self-Harm And Eating Disorders

The Debrief: It seems positive at first, but in reality, one ‘risk’ is being replaced with another

Pretty regularly we hear new reports telling us about how teenagers now differ to generation before them. Like how 43% are neither gay nor straight and how they’re having less sex than ever.

Now, we have even more information about teenagers from a government paper that suggests they’re moving away from drink (although the UK has one of the highest rates of ‘heavy episodic drinking’ by 15-19 year olds in Europe), drugs, cigarettes and fewer are getting pregnant. At first glance, this seems very positive, but the reality is that these behaviours are being replaced with other negative tendencies such as an increase in cases of self-harm and eating disorders, as well as a chronic lack of sleep and a decline in physical activity.

The Independent reported that at a meeting chaired by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Mark Walport, experts described a ‘digital immersion’, which has impacted on young people. It was suggested that young people are so pre-occupied with the internet that they basically don’t have time to take part in ‘traditional risk behaviours’ like drinking. But these apparent positive effects of the online world also seem to come with negatives such as a rise in cyber-bullying and exposure to ‘hate content, self-harm and pro-anorexia’ websites. Furthermore, the report identified a rise in self-harm, particularly among teenage girls with recent research suggesting that a third of 15 year old girls had reported harming themselves on purpose. 

So, while at first glance it seems like Gen Z are experiencing a positive change in behaviour, the reality is that ‘traditional risk behaviours’ are being replaced with more ‘modern’ social-media focused ones. Rather than arguing whether it’s worse now than it was before, let’s instead adress the issues to try and make them better for the current and the next generation, because it’s not a bloody competition. 

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Picture: Matilda Hill-Jenkins