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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 03:03 GMT 04:03 UK
The changing face of teenage Britain
More teenagers are going on to higher education
Young people today may not be healthier or richer, but they are better educated than ever before, says a survey.

A wide-ranging study by the Office for National Statistics has delved into every corner of the lives of modern 13 to 24-year-olds.

The authors of the study, called Social Focus on Young People, found that young people today live in a very different society from their parents, but the advances are not all good.

While more 16-year-olds than ever before are in full-time education, young people are actually suffering more long-standing illnesses than 20 years ago.

Eating disorders are on the increase, while teenagers generally spend more time watching television than doing any other activities such as sport.

Changing times

The report examines the rapidly changing period between the ages of 13 and 24, drawing on the findings of wide range of British surveys, including the National Survey of Young People in Sport and the General Household Survey.

Teenagers' attitudes to sex, their financial situation and the likelihood of them committing an offence are all investigated.

On a positive note, the study finds young people to be better educated and qualified than ever before, with two-thirds of boys and three-quarters of girls over the age of 16 staying in full-time education.

Those who have gone into work after taking a degree can expect to earn 100 a week more than their fellow workers with GCSE qualifications.

But as a whole, the age group is coming under increasing financial pressure as the introduction of student loans forces most full-time students into part-time work to make ends meet.

Asthma attacks

On the health front, the age group reports fewer health problems than other age groups, but the incidence of long-standing illnesses among young people is rising.

Asthma and meningitis cases among young people are partly to blame for the rising statistics, which show that around 22% of young women and 18% of young men have a long-standing illness of some kind.

Meningitis vaccinations
Vaccination time: Meningitis is on the increase
Five times the number of people went to the doctors suffering from asthma in 1994 than in 1976, indicating an illness that seems to be an increasing by-product of modern life.

Eating disorders are another big 'plague' for young people, most notably young females.

The survey says that some 51% of women aged 20 to 24 were trying to lose weight.

In contrast, 28% of men between 16 and 19 were trying to gain weight.

Couch potatoes

The social activities of young people in Britain tend to focus heavily around watching television, according to the study.

School sport
Most teenagers prefer TV to sport
Teenagers spend an average of 12 hours watching television each week, while only five or six hours are spent with family or doing school work.

When they do venture outdoors, the Social Focus for Young People study finds that boys are more likely to participate in sport than girls.

Some 75% of boys aged up to 16 frequently play a team game, compared with only 42% of girls.

The biggest out of school sport played by boys is football, while girls tend to favour more individual activities such as swimming and keep fit.

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