The unhealthy generation

Unhealthy living is easy and too often promoted by parents, so it's no surprise that teens are getting unhealthier by the day.

Unhealthy eating

From a practical perspective, fast food intake is very common in teens and young adults. In a recent survey, nearly 30% of those interviewed consumed fast food between 2 and 3 times per week. This was highest in young men, and in persons from a lower socio-economic background. 

However, despite this pattern, one of the major barriers to healthy eating, is affordability of healthy food.

There is no indication that tuck shop intake and food choices have changed since 2007, however, there have been promising changes to the school feeding schemes to include fresh fruits and vegetables.

The facts
  • Nearly 30% of teens consumed fast food 2 –3 times a week 
  • Healthy foods, for example, in rural settings cost almost twice as much as the unhealthy equivalent
Tobacco Use

Prevalence of smoking amongst SA adolescents has remained constant since the last report card, although the levels remain concerning, particularly in light of SA's strong smoking legislation.

"Smoking is more prominent in boys than girls, higher in urban areas, and most kids start before they are 19 years old. Nearly 30% of teens surveyed report having ever smoked, with one in five admitting to being current smokers. This is well above the global prevalence for children and youth, and we again score a D for smoking," says Prof Lambert.

Lambert stresses further that parents and peers are important factors in smoking behaviour and that children whose parents smoke are more likely to start smoking as well.

Although the panel expressed their grave concern regarding these harmful health trends, there were some positive findings as well:
  1. There are increasing examples of private-public sector partnerships to address the need of teachers for support in implementing physical education and nutrition education.
  2. The policy environment is changing from the school-feeding scheme to the curriculum, to the re-inclusion of regular physical education.
  3. Global sports events, and programmes in sports for development and sports for all may provide opportunities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in physical activity at a community level.
"By getting a better idea of the state of health and health behaviour in South African kids, and the factors which impact on healthy eating and physical activity, we can become better advocates for health in children across a variety of settings, from home to school, in the media, in supermarkets, the built environment, and in policy-making. We can give our children a healthier future" concluded Nossel.

The facts
  • Nearly 30% of adolescents say they have smoked
  • 21% admit to being current smokers (this is double that of global prevalence estimates)
  • Majority of smokers start before the age of 19, with 6.8% starting under the age of 10
Do you promote healthy eating or not?

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