UK warned that youth unemployment is 'public health time bomb waiting to explode'

World Health Organisation also flags up that we lag behind EU neighbours in child death rates and women's life expectancy

Health Reporter

Youth unemployment in the UK and throughout Europe is a "public health time bomb waiting to explode" the World Health Organisation has warned.

In the wake of the economic downturn, the UK also lags behind many of its European neighbours for key health indicators such as death of children under 5 and women's life expectancy, according to the findings of a major two-year review led by the public health expert Professor Sir Michael Marmot.

The Czech Republic, Slovenia and Greece all had lower child mortality rates than the UK and life expectancy for women in Spain, Italy and Cyprus exceeded UK rates.

Prof Marmot said that the UK was "failing too many of our children, women and young people on a grand scale."

Despite a tentative economic recovery, youth unemployment in the UK remains high, with more than one million 16 to 24-year-olds still classified as Neets - not in employment, education or training.

The problem is even more severe elsewhere in Europe. Spain has a youth unemployment rate of 56 per cent and in Greece the figure is closer to 65 per cent.

Poverty associated with high unemployment is closely associated with a higher likelihood of poor diet, smoking and long-term health problems like obesity. Prof Marmot said that poor health at such a crucial time of life was saving up problems for later generations.

"Unemployment may be falling in the UK, but persistent high levels of the number of young people over 18 not in employment, education or training is storing up a public health time bomb waiting to explode," said Prof Marmot.

He also highlighted the UK's failure to tackle health inequalities. The UK's child poverty rate is comparable to that of Hungary, and higher than that of Ireland, but both these countries do more to reduce poverty by redistributing wealth through taxes and welfare.

"In the UK we have chosen to have relatively high child poverty rates," he said. "It's a policy choice."

Child poverty rates are defined by the number people under the age of 18 living in households which have an income below 60 per cent of the national median average. Nearly one in every four children in the UK is in this group. Government statistics suggest that less than half of these children reach a good level of educational development. Poorer education was also closely associated with worse health outcomes later in life.

 

For under 5s mortality, the UK, which had a rate of 5.4 deaths per 1,000 children, was behind countries with much weaker economies, such as the Czech Republic, with 3.4 deaths per 1,000, and Slovenia, with 3 deaths per 1,000.

Meanwhile, women in the UK can expect to live to 83 years of age - less than their neighbours in Spain and France, on 85 years, as well as Germany and Cyprus, on 84 years.

The review was carried out by the World Health Organisation and the University College London Institute of Health Equity.

Inequalities in income and health are expanding throughout Europe.

Prof Marmot said that it was too early to say what impact UK government policies since the economic crisis have had on health inequalities, but said that any policy which impacted negatively on people's income, the quality of their housing and their chances of employment should be viewed with concern.

"I would say to any government that cares about the health of its population: look at the impact of their policies on the lives people are able to lead and, more importantly, at the impact on inequality," he said. "Health inequality, arising from social and economic inequalities, are socially unjust, unnecessary and avoidable, and if offends against the human right to health."

A Government spokesperson said: “This report underlines the stubborn and persistent nature of health inequalities across Europe and reinforces the message that people's health is shaped by the conditions in which they live, work and age and that action is needed to improve them.

”The Chief Medical Officer raised this issue in her recent report on children's health, outlining the need to invest early in our young people to give them good foundations and the best start in life. We have already successfully protected the poorest from falling behind and last year we saw a reduction of 100,000 children in workless poor families. In addition, we are training an extra 4,200 health visitors by 2015, and 16,000 of the most vulnerable families will be helped by family nurses.

“We take health inequalities very seriously which is why we have created the first ever specific legal duties on health inequalities for NHS England, clinical commissioning groups, and the Secretary of State and are committed to eradicating child poverty.”

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

    £120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

    Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

    £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness