The social determinants of young people’s health

Identifying the key issues and assessing how young people are doing in the 2010s

June 2018

Rakhee Shah
Russell Viner
Dougal Hargreaves
Michelle Heys
Laura Varnes
Ann Hagell
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Key points

  • Adolescent disadvantage and certain adolescent health outcomes are linked. 
  • There are also links between experiences as a young person and adult outcomes, and between childhood health difficulties and adult health difficulties. 
  • There are health inequalities linked to all of the social determinants included in this report, but some of these relationships are stronger for certain outcomes, and some are weaker than for other age groups.

This paper provides an overview of evidence on the social determinants of young people’s health. 

Untangling social determinants and health outcomes for young people is complicated. There are important distinctions to be made between income, income inequality, educational achievements and other measures of disadvantage. Important issues include: how inequalities exist in adolescence and whether they narrow or widen at this stage of life. There is less data relating specifically to adolescence rather than adult age groups.

There are health inequalities linked to all of the social determinants included in this report, but some of these relationships are stronger for certain outcomes (including mortality, obesity and under 18 conceptions), and some are weaker than for other age groups (including risky health behaviours such as alcohol use).

Evidence for some kind of ‘equalisation’ in health inequalities in adolescence has been suggested, but evidence on this is equivocal. In addition, how social inequalities play into the transition into early adulthood has not received much attention.

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