Twenty-07 Logo MRC SPHSU Logo

Members Area


Research Findings: Age - Youth

Our research of age has focused on young people.  Experiences in youth may influence health in later life.  We explored socioeconomic circumstances and patterns of behaviour among young people born in the 1970s to find out what factors have influenced health into adulthood.

Our research on young people’s health in the Twenty-07 Study has focused on six broad areas:

Social patterning of health

Health inequalities: what’s going on in youth?

The Black Report made the assumption that health inequalities permeate all ages.  Our findings tell a different story, that in early youth, around the time of secondary education, there is less evidence of class differences in health than at any other point in the life-course, including the earlier period of childhood, and that health is more strongly linked to where young people are heading than where they came from.

Lack of class variation in health in adolescence
We previously found that the familiar pattern of class inequalities in health was not apparent in adolescence.  This paper investigated whether this was a result of the way different factors were measured in the Twenty-07 Study, but concluded that this was not the case.

Social Class in Youth and Health
On a range of physical and mental health measures, we found very little evidence of class variations in health among the 1970s cohort when they were 15 year olds in the 1st wave of the Twenty-07 Study.  By contrast, significant social class gradients in health were apparent in findings from the 1950s cohort when they were 35 years old.  We suggest possible explanations and further research to establish why, over a relatively short period of time, inequalities appear to emerge from youth into adulthood.

Summary papers...

Role of family life on health and health behaviours

Effect of family structure, culture and conflict on teenage health
During teenage years and into adulthood, family culture may have more direct effects on health than poorer living standards or family structure.

The relationship between family life and young people’s lifestyles
Among the youngest cohort of the Twenty-07 Study the most consistent relationships occurred in respect of ‘family time’.  Young people who spent more time with the rest of their family were less likely to smoke or to have tried illicit drugs.  They were more likely to have left school later, to have some qualifications, and to be students, with women less likely to have been pregnant by age 18.

Effect of family structure on teenage family life, behaviour and life-chances
We found that young people from ‘step’ and lone parent households spent less time with their families than those from families with both birth parents. Less time spent with family was strongly and most consistently linked to higher levels of smoking, drinking, and experience of drugs, heterosexual intercourse, teenage pregnancy, anti-social behaviour, poorer educational achievement and reduced employment after leaving school.

Certain aspects of family life, particularly poorer relationships and conflict with parent(s) were associated with lower self-esteem, poorer mental health and well-being and, among females, more symptoms of physical ill-health at ages 15 and 18.  Teenagers from more family-centred and lower-conflict homes had a greater likelihood of reaching further education. 

Influence of family and friends on teenage smoking habits
The period from mid-adolescence to early adulthood is important for uptake of regular smoking, and in particular friends’ smoking appeared to have a significant influence on respondent behaviour, especially around school-leaving age when friendship networks often change dramatically.  Having parents who smoke did not appear to influence teenage smoking habits.

Does the effect of family structure on teenage opportunities, lifestyle and health vary geographically?
The effects of family life and reason for family disruption on the future lifestyles, health and life chances of teenagers were not found to vary according to which part of the country they live in.

Summary papers...

Employment and health

Youth transitions:  patterns of vulnerability and social inclusion

Lack of clear goals, lack of qualifications and skills, periods of unemployment, lack of social support and living in a deprived neighbourhood are some of the factors that have limited or constrained life choices of teenagers born in the 1970s, affecting their levels of vulnerability and social inclusion as they made their transition into early adulthood. 

No job, no future:  factors that affect mental health of young people
In the Twenty-07 Study, one third of males and 40% of females experienced mental health problems at 18 years.  Poorer mental health was strongly linked to the experience of unemployment, expectations of unemployment and being at home (especially among females) at ages 18 and 21. 

Summary papers...

Role of leisure activities on health

Social and health consequences of changing leisure patterns in youths

Comparing the 1970s cohort of the Twenty-07 Study to more recent cohorts of 15 year olds, we found that, male-female differences in ‘street-based’ leisure activities (previously more males) and conventional ‘home-based’ leisure activities (previously more females) have disappeared over the course of the 1990s.  Watching screen sports and playing computer games has increased among males. Levels of drinking, smoking and experiences of illicit drugs among females have overtaken those of males.  Changing patterns of substance use between males and females can be accounted for, in part, by changes in leisure activities and lifting of constraints on young women’s lifestyles.

Summary papers...

Mental health among young people

Fifteen, female and stressed:  changing patterns of mental health over time

Comparing the 1970s cohort of the Twenty-07 Study to more recent cohorts of 15 year olds, we found that between 1987 and 1999 stress had increased significantly in teenage girls, particularly those from non-manual and skilled manual backgrounds.  One reason for this may be that young females have been increasingly exposed to new stress triggers such as increased educational expectations and more traditional concerns with self-image. 

Is low self-esteem related to unhealthy lifestyles among young people?
A sense of high self-esteem or self-worth is often considered a key factor in success at school and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. We found that young people with low self-esteem were no more likely to engage in unhealthy lifestyles such as smoking, drinking, drug use or early sexual experience.  By contrast, those with more “street-wise” lifestyles were more likely to adopt unhealthy behaviours. 

Summary papers...