Health related lifestyles of children: getting better?BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g3025 (Published 02 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3025
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This editorial highlights interesting and inspiring results regarding the physical health of young people in the UK. However, taking a taking a closer look at figures from the Mental Health Network NHS Confederation highlights a differing trend in the mental health of young people. This is not highlighted in the editorial - a healthy mind is an important and sometimes overlooked prerequisite to a healthy life style during childhood and adolescence.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate that one in ten children (aged 5-16) had a clinically diagnoses mental health disorder (ONS, 2005). However, there was no clinically significant change in the rates of disorders since 1999. The rates of hospital admission are more alarming. In 2011-12 there were 3,626 inpatient admissions in child and adolescent psychiatry specialties. This was a 15.6% increase on the previous year. The number of admission is now around twice that at the time of the millennium (NHS Confederation, 2014).
Interestingly, rates of first tele-consultation attendance in 2012-13 increased to 4,185 from 3,248 in 2011-12 (NHS Confederation, 2014). This could possibly reflect the significant impact of tele- and e-medicine on the youth of today. There is no doubt that the social network and structures of today’s youth have significantly changed with the introduction of the internet. The widespread use of phones, tablets and computers may well have contributed to change in help-seeking behaviour but also may have impacted more widely on the health of the nation’s children. We recently researched the implications of social media in depression in adolescents. A literature review highlighted the increased access to clinicians using social networking, the formation of therapeutic communities, the dangers of inaccurate information and sharing of maladaptive coping strategies.
Given the changing trend in physical health of children and adolescents, it only seems appropriate to strive for improvement in mental health; one could argue that the new opportunities that social networking and the internet offers may be key to improving this.
Office for National Statistics (2005), Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain, 2004.
NHS Confederation, Mental Health Network (2014), Key facts and trends in mental health. 2014 update.
Competing interests: No competing interests