Research indicates that as children become teenagers in contemporary society, significant changes occur to their lifestyles.
Some of these changes put them at risk of developing unhealthy habits that can have a detrimental impact upon their overall health and wellbeing. For example, teenagers might:
- Eat fewer of the foods they need to maintain a healthy weight, such as fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy products;
- Eat more high-energy food, takeaway and snacks;
- Eat away from home more and make food decisions parents can't control;
- Do more activities that involve sitting down, such as socialising online, watching TV, reading and using computers and mobile phones;
- Develop poor sleep habits;
- Become more reliant on using methods of transportation such as catching the bus, train or driving instead of walking;
- Do less physical activity, including less exercise and intense physical activity.
These behaviours have been identified as 'risk factors' for numerous health problems in teenagers such as obesity and insulin resistance (a precursor to type-2 diabetes), and are also significant contributors to poor mental health in young people, such as increased stress and low mood.
As teenagers move into adulthood, these behaviours may become entrenched and they place themselves at risk of developing cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease), bowel and breast cancers, type-2 diabetes and osteoporosis. These health disorders are chronic and cause a reduction in quality of life and are associated with significant morbidity and mortality in developed nations.