Young People into 2019

The Schools Health Education Unit will publish the 33rd volume in its statistical series about young people on Friday July 19th.

A press release is enclosed which summarises the main findings, which is also appended for your convenience.

A summary infographic is also enclosed. The full report (7Mb) can be downloaded on application to SHEU.


EMBARGO until 12:01am Friday 19th July 2019


The Young People into 2019 report



Dr David Regis, Research Manager, SHEU Tel.(01392) 667272 Email. 
Dr Regis is available for interview and comment in advance of the midnight embargo on the night of Friday 19th July.


We have just published Young People into 2019, which presents figures from over seventy thousand young people (71,368) completing surveys in 2018. This report is the 33rd in a series begun in 1987.  The full report may be obtained in PDF format by application to SHEU.


Where are the figures from?


Every year, SHEU carry out healthy lifestyle surveys with young people for local authorities and each year these surveys involve tens of thousands of young people. At the end of each calendar year, we put all the results from all the surveys together, and publish a report.  These reports contain findings from over 100 health-related behaviour questions using answers from pupils in primary and secondary schools. They tell us about what they do at home, at school, and with their friends.


What’s in the report?


The report has 7 chapters:


CHAPTER 1 - Food choices & weight control

CHAPTER 2 - Doctor & Dentist

CHAPTER 3 - Health & Safety

CHAPTER 4 - Family & Home

CHAPTER 5 - Legal & Illegal Drugs

CHAPTER 6 - Exercise & Sport

CHAPTER 7 - Social & Personal


The pages in each chapter show results from one question (sometimes two) and may also show links between questions and trends in responses going back over decades.


Some of the latest figures are different from those we last published in 2018, but not all the differences are new – it’s better to describe them as continuations of trends that we have seen going on for some time.  All the clearest trends are shown in the report and collected in a summary sheet published last year:


1. SHEU (the Schools and Students Health Education Unit) was founded in Exeter University in 1977 by John Balding and has operated independently since 1997.  It is the leading provider of health and lifestyle surveys for schools and holds a unique set of databanks showing levels of and trends in young people's behaviours since in the 1980s.

2. The sample size was 71,368, but not all respondents answered all questions.                                Ages and year groups reported were:

3. We discourage surveys being conducted on Mondays, so ‘the day before the survey’ should have been a normal school day, and similarly ‘the week before the survey’ will not have been a holiday week.


Year group



Year 4

8-9 years old


Year 6

10-11 years old


Year 8

12-13 years old


Year 10

14-15 years old

4. The accumulated databank from the hundreds of school surveys we support each year, involving tens of thousands of young people, is a valuable resource of information and provides many opportunities for insight and research. But we caution against simple reporting and interpretation of our figures as being from 'a national survey'; it didn’t happen that way.

Many authorities use us every other year, and so will appear and disappear from the data sets, and there are some trends in which we can see evidence of a regional effect in the figures we obtain – as in the case of figures for eating wholemeal bread on most days in the middle 2000s, which shows a ‘rollercoaster’:

Headlines and trends from the 2018 data set (Young People into 2019):


CHAPTER 1 - Food choices & weight control


  • Around 10% of all pupils said they ate no portions of fruit or vegetables yesterday, while just 17% of 14-15-year-old pupils said they ate at least the recommended 5 portions on the day before the survey.
  • Up to 11% of pupils say they had no water to drink on the day before the survey.
  • There is a marked increase once we get to the secondary age group among females wanting to lose weight – 56% of 14-15-year-old females said they would like to lose weight.


  • The trend for more pupils to skip lunch steadied about 10 years ago.
  • Daily consumption of crisps has declined steadily since about 2000.


  • Year 10 females who skipped breakfast on the morning of the survey were also more likely to have skipped lunch on the day before the survey, and to want to lose weight.

CHAPTER 2 - Doctor & Dentist


  • Nearly half of pupils have visited a doctor in the last three months.
  • 23% of 14-15-year-old females felt quite or very uneasy on their last visit.
  • 40-88% of all groups had been to the dentist in the last 6 months.
  • Up to 88% of all groups brushed their teeth at least twice on the day before the survey.


  • The proportion visiting the dentist in the last 6 months has remained fairly constant since 1986, despite several changes in the organisation of NHS dental care.

CHAPTER 3 - Health & Safety


  • Around 20% of primary pupils said they experienced bullying behaviours often or every day – these behaviours included teasing and name-calling but also being pushed/hit.
  • Of those bullied often, about 40% report being bullied during school playtimes.
  • The most common reasons reported for being bullied were size or weight and the way you look, especially for older females.
  • Fear of bullying at school declines with age.
  • Up to a quarter of older pupils report unwelcome behaviours from boyfriends/girlfriends, like jealousy, hurtful language and checking my ‘phone.
  • 75-90% of all groups say they have been told how to stay safe while online.
  • 20% of older females (14-15yo) say they have sent sexual images of themselves.
  • 42% of 12-13-year-old males reported having an accident in the last year that needed medical attention.


  • Reports of being bullied and the fear of being bullied have increased since 2011.


  • Getting plenty of sleep is associated with fewer worries and more contentment with their weight in 14-15-year-old females.
  • There is an association between wellbeing and time spent online or using a ‘phone.

CHAPTER 4 - Family & Home


  • Over 40% of the older pupils walked at least part of the way to school on the day of the survey.
  • About 2/3 of the sample live with mother and father, less as they get older.
  • About 75% of the 14-15-year-olds identify as White (British or other).


  • A rise in time spent playing computer games is shown clearly in our figures for males of all ages.


  • Being a young carer is associated with several unwelcome outcomes – more reports of being bullied, of smoking, of money worries and of accidents.
  • Similarly, having free school meals is also associated with being bullied.



CHAPTER 5 - Legal & Illegal Drugs


  • Over 10% of the 14-15-year-olds had drunk alcohol in the week before the survey.  Drinking was done most often at home.
  • About 5% of 14-15-year-olds had smoked a cigarette in the week before the survey.
  • 1/3 of pupils live in homes where someone smokes, but just 10% report someone smoking indoors.
  • 23% of 14-15yo have tried tobacco cigarettes, but over 40% report trying e-cigarettes.
  • Over 10% of pupils aged 14-15 years had ever tried drugs – nearly always cannabis, if nothing else.


  • Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are in long-term decline in our figures; cannabis experimentation has been fairly stable for the last decade.
  • Figures for reported experience with cannabis are notable for an absence of much effect of legislation during changes 2004-2009.


  • There is an association between finding drugs education lessons more useful and lower substance use (see Chapter 7).
  • Alcohol use always used to be associated with higher self-esteem among older pupils, but this pattern has reversed in recent years. 

CHAPTER 6 - Exercise & Sport


  • Around 80% of all groups say they did some sort of exercise last week but less than 10% said they exercised every day, and even fewer claimed to exercise hard enough to get hot.  (Recommendations are for daily exercise of at least an hour in total, including some vigorous exercise and strength-building activities.)
  • Weekly sports and activities included going for walks (over half of secondary females) soccer (over half of secondary males) and dancing (over a quarter of secondary females).
  • Among secondary pupils, the most commonly reported barriers to taking exercise were time, cost, availability and, especially in females, shyness (29% of 14-15yo girls).


  • Enjoyment of physical activities is lowest among 14-15-year-old females and is declining.
  • Perceived fitness is in decline among both secondary year groups and both sexes.

CHAPTER 7 - Social & Personal


  • Over half of 10-11-year-olds agree that the school cares whether I am happy or not but just a third of 14-15-year-olds say the same.
  • The majority of 12-15-year-olds enjoy at least half of their lessons.
  • Worries about school and the way you look are higher in secondary age groups, particularly among 14-15-year-old females (over 80% of whom are worried at least ‘quite a lot’ about each issue).
  • The most commonly reported response to having a problem or feeling stressed is to talk to someone about it.  Some pupils distract themselves with music or comfort themselves with eating more; over 10% of 14-15yo females say they sometimes cut or hurt myself.
  • Over 2/3 of secondary pupils judge that they can usually or always say no if someone wants them to do something that they don’t want to do.
  • Nearly 60% of 14-15-year-old pupils know where to get condoms free of charge.


  • We see a continued decline in the proportion of 14-15-year-old females who score in the top bracket of self-esteem scores, with more scoring in the lower brackets.
  • Worry about school, exams and tests seems to be increasing among 14-15 year-olds.


  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual young people are more likely than their peers to report being bullied and also to have tried smoking or drugs.




Comments about SHEU

"The system works and I find quite a lot of it useful in my work. I've also recommended it to others."

Teenage Pregnancy Manager

"The Unit is to be congratulated in preparing ... material of the highest standard and worthy of wide dissemination." National Association for Environmental Education

National Association for Environmental Education

"As a result of the survey we reviewed and amended PSHE schemes of work, we are currently working on a "Green Travel Plan", a morning breakfast club was established and we further developed 6th Form mentoring."

Health Education Coordinator

"Brilliant - thank you Angela. As always you and your team are so proficient at getting our requests dealt with so promptly - it is a real pleasure to work with such a great organisation."

Health Improvement Adviser

"The (named) Children and Young People's Partnership has benefitted from the results of the SHEU survey locally for many years now, and we should like to continue to do so in future."

Consultant in Public Health Medicine

Thank you for following up with schools the comments that caused concern. It is very sad to hear that some of our children have these thoughts and feelings and I am so grateful that you were able to make the schools aware of this so that they can attempt to offer some support.

This is another reason why I am so pleased that we have been able to work with you to offer this survey.

Health and Wellbeing Adviser

"Many thanks to SHEU for your excellent professional support over the years."

PSHE teacher

"Please send an additional copy of our report - it is the most requested and borrowed item in the whole library." Health Promotion Unit

Health Promotion Unit

"This week I have been working on a major strategy for service design -- it is easy to get solely focussed on hospitals, performance targets, and work force planning -- all very important; but at the same the needs of young people and how we need to work across agencies to address the health needs of today and tomorrow must be recognised. SHEU is founded to do just this."

PCT Performance Manager

"Just to say a huge thank you for all your efforts in helping us with the Health survey amongst pupils. It has provided us with significant data which will be used across the school to help us improve. It helped us to obtain a healthy schools standard as well. I hope we can make this an annual feature as we can track the changing health of our pupils." Headteacher