2 Public health need and practice
There is a lack of data to assess the positive dimensions of young people's social and emotional wellbeing. Rather, the information available puts an emphasis on measures of poor social and emotional wellbeing, as illustrated below.
One in 10 students in secondary education say they are not happy and one in three reports feeling low each week (Morgan et al. 2006). Over a third (35%) of students in mainstream secondary schools fear being bullied and just under a quarter (23%) report having been bullied (MORI 2004).
The prevalence of mental illness among young people increased between 1974 and 1999 (Collishaw et al. 2004). However, this upward trend was halted between 1999 and 2004 (Office for National Statistics 2004).
In 2004, 12% of young people aged 11–16 years had a clinically diagnosable mental illness (Office for National Statistics 2004): conduct disorders (almost 7%) and emotional disorders (5%) were the most common among this age group. Generally, mental illness affects boys more than girls.
A third of children (33%) with conduct disorders have been excluded from school at some point and nearly a quarter (22%) have been excluded more than once (Office for National Statistics 2004).
Children and young people who are exposed to difficult situations such as bullying or racism, or who are coping with socially disadvantaged circumstances are at higher risk of experiencing emotional and behavioural difficulties. They may include:
looked after children
those who have experienced adverse life events (such as bereavement or parental separation)
those who have been exposed to abuse or violence
those with chronic health problems (such as diabetes and asthma) and disabilities.