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Overall, the majority of young Australians (12–24 yrs) experience good health and wellbeing, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

However, over one-third of Australia’s young people are overweight or obese. Less than half meet recommended physical activity guidelines and very few consume the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables each day.

The report, Young Australians: their health and wellbeing 2011, examines the progress made in the health and wellbeing of 12 to 24 year olds across the nation and over time.

‘Over 90% of young Australians rate their health as either “good”, “very good” or “excellent”,’ said Mary Beneforti of the AIHW’s Social and Indigenous Group.

‘Youth mortality rates have halved in the last 20 years and this is largely the result of fewer injuries, mainly road accident deaths,’ Ms Beneforti said.

Among young people in 2009, there were 370 deaths due to road transport accidents, a rate of 9 per 100,000 young people—a substantial decline from 28 per 100,000 in 1989.

Most young people are achieving national minimum standards for literacy and numeracy.

In 2007, over 80% of Year 7 and Year 9 students met the minimum standards for literacy and numeracy, three-quarters of students remained in school to Year 12, and over half of all 15–24 year olds were studying for a qualification.

Four in five young people are fully involved in study or work, but this raises concerns for those not participating.

Young people also report strong support networks which has been linked to better physical and mental health.

While the results are encouraging overall, there is still potential for further improvement.

Rates of insulin-treated diabetes have risen by more than 40% over the last decade, although some of this rise may be due to better reporting. Other areas of concern include rising rates of sexually transmissible infections, particularly chlamydia, and mental health issues, with many young people reporting anxiety or substance-use disorders or depression.

‘Young people living in remote areas have higher death rates, poorer educational outcomes and are less likely to see a general practitioner,’ Ms Beneforti said.

‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are more likely to be disadvantaged across a range of health and welfare indicators.’

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 10 June 2011

Further information: Mary Beneforti, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5008, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: Young Australians: their health and wellbeing 2011