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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 hometowns.’

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