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EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.1 General context

Last update: 5 March 2024

Main trends in the health conditions of young people

Child and Youth Health Report (Kinder- und Jugendgesundheitsbericht)

The Austrian Child and Youth Health Report first published by the Federal Ministry of Health in January 2016 (reporting year 2015), accompanies the Child and Youth Health Strategy, offering insights into the health status of children and adolescents based on available data. It examines individual and social health factors, emphasizing equal opportunities and identifying challenges through international comparisons. This serves as a crucial resource for shaping counter-strategies and health policy priorities. The report provides a comprehensive overview of youth health in Austria, addressing various aspects, including:

  • Self-reported health and life satisfaction are of concern for both male and female students. Around 40% of 11-, 13- and 15-year-olds rate their health as excellent, with boys generally more positive than girls. However, older adolescents tend to perceive their health less favourably than younger ones. In addition, 11% of boys and 13% of girls report problems, with around 22% experiencing multiple symptoms each week, including sleep problems and irritability. Boys have higher rates of hospitalisation for injuries and respiratory illnesses, which have remained stable since the 1990s.
  • While cancer rates are slightly increasing, mortality is decreasing, particularly for childhood and adolescent leukaemia. Mental disorders are increasing for both sexes, while eating disorders are stable. Suicide rates among young people aged 10-19 have been decreasing over the years, with a significant decrease observed between 2001 and 2014. 
  • The incidence of diabetes is increasing among 0-14-year olds, while atopic diseases such as asthma and hay fever are increasing among 6-7-year olds. Dental health requires attention, with only half of 6-year-olds having minimal tooth decay.
  • Developmental delays affect a significant proportion of children, with speech and motor problems being common. Severe disabilities require increased family allowances for 4% of beneficiaries, with a rising trend.
  • Injury rates among schoolchildren are significant, with around 17% suffering multiple injuries requiring medical attention each year. While in-patient treatment for injuries has remained stable over two decades, fatal injuries are decreasing. Overall mortality rates are decreasing.


Report on the State of Youth (8. Bericht zur Lage der Jugend in Österreich)

In addition, the 8th Report on the State of Youth in Austria, published by the Federal Chancellery in 2023, highlights several key trends in the health status of young people in Austria.

  • In 2022, almost 65% of people up to the age of 29 lived with their parents, indicating a high level of dependency among young adults. The 2019 Health Survey found that two-thirds of young people aged 15-29 were of normal weight, while one-fifth were overweight. There were gender differences in dietary choices and physical activity, with men consuming more meat and sugary drinks and doing more muscle-strengthening exercises than women. 
  • Alcohol consumption was reported by 24% of 15-29-year olds, usually on one or two days a week. Around 30% of males aged 18-29 reported smoking daily, compared with a fifth of females aged 25-29. Overall life satisfaction among young people is similar to that of the general population, with unemployed young people reporting the lowest levels of satisfaction. 
  • In 2021, 5.6% of convicted males and 4.8% of convicted females were aged 14-17, indicating a worrying level of youth involvement in the criminal justice system. Attitudes towards the coexistence of Austrians and migrants varied, with 39.1% of native-born young people having a positive attitude and 23.4% having a negative attitude. The standard of living of young people was directly linked to that of their parents while they were living with them. 
  • Some 177,000 young people aged 14-24 (21.8%) were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, while 82,000 young adults aged 25-29 (14.7%) faced similar challenges.


Health Behaviour in School-aged Children Study (HBSC-Studie)

The HBSC (Health Behaviour in School-aged Children) study is a major European initiative carried out every four years in cooperation with WHO-Europe. In Austria, the study serves as a basis for health policy decisions and national health objectives. The report presents Austrian results, with data collected from 7,099 students of different ages and sexes (schools from grade 5 volunteered, with one or two classes from grades 5, 7, 9 or 11 per school). The results show varying levels of self-reported health and well-being among students, with girls generally reporting lower levels of satisfaction and higher rates of physical and psychological complaints than boys. The study also highlights differences in stress levels, injuries, chronic conditions and perceptions of body weight between genders and age groups. Key findings on health and well-being and health and risk behaviours are presented below:

Health and well-being: 

  • Between 74% and 90% of students, depending on gender and grade, rate their health as excellent or good. Ratings tend to be more negative for girls and older students than for boys and younger students. Life satisfaction decreases with age, with 31% of girls and 19% of boys currently not very satisfied with their lives.
  • Mental and physical complaints: Girls are more likely to suffer from psychological and physical complaints such as irritability, difficulty sleeping, nervousness, worrying about the future and feeling down. Across all age groups, girls report lower emotional well-being than boys. According to the WHO-5 assessment manual, 22% of girls and 10% of boys may suffer from depressed mood or depression.
  • Loneliness and stress: Only 34% of older girls (9th grade and above) felt rarely or never lonely in the past 12 months, compared with 57% of boys of the same age. Subjective levels of stress increase for girls as they progress through school, but not for boys.
  • Injuries and chronic illnesses: Between 47% and 69% of students, depending on gender and grade, required treatment for injuries within a year. About one-fifth of students report suffering from long-term or chronic illnesses or stressors, with more girls and older students affected.
  • Hearing and vision problems: About 16% of students in grade 9 and above, slightly more girls than boys, believe they have poor hearing. Almost a quarter of girls and a fifth of boys wear glasses or contact lenses all day.
  • Weight issues: Based on self-reported height and weight, 15% of girls are classified as underweight, 68% as normal weight and 17% as overweight or obese. For boys, the rates are 10% underweight, 65% normal weight and 25% overweight or obese. Irrespective of height and weight, 15% of girls consider themselves too thin and 40% too fat, while 24% of boys consider themselves too thin and 30% too fat.

Health and risk behaviour:

  • The average number of days on which students are physically active for at least one hour (as recommended by the WHO) decreases with age.
  • 30% of girls and 52% of boys engage in vigorous physical activity at least 4 times a week, while 17% of girls and 8% of boys never do so.
  • Organised leisure activities such as sports and artistic activities are popular, with 41% to 62% of girls and 29% to 55% of boys participating, depending on age.
  • Daily fruit consumption ranges from 41% to 62% for girls and 29% to 55% for boys, while daily vegetable consumption ranges from 43% to 49% for girls and 29% to 42% for boys.
  • 36% of girls and 25% of boys consume sweets daily and 15% of girls and 18% of boys drink soft drinks daily.
  • 5% of girls and 6% of boys consume fast food daily and 8% of both girls and boys drink at least one energy drink daily.
  • Salty snacks are eaten daily by 10% of girls and 9% of boys.
  • 61% to 87% of girls and 71% to 88% of boys eat with their family (almost) every day.
  • 82% of girls and 71% of boys brush their teeth at least twice a day, while 85% of girls and 79% of boys in higher grades visit the dentist annually.
  • Around a third of students in grade 9 or above currently use at least one nicotine product, with cigarettes and/or e-cigarettes being the most common. Around half of grade 9 students do not drink alcohol, decreasing to about a third in grade 11. There's no difference between girls and boys in alcohol consumption frequency.
  • Cannabis is currently used by 7% of girls and 9% of boys in grade 9 or above.
  • 25% of girls and 24% of boys in grade 9 or above have had sexual intercourse, with condoms being the most commonly used contraceptive method.

Since 2010, Austrian students have shown worrying trends in health and behaviour. While there has been a decline in the number of girls who rate their health as 'excellent', this hasn't been the case for boys. The burden of complaints has increased for both sexes and all age groups, while life satisfaction among older students has declined continuously since 2014. The prevalence of being overweight or obese has increased steadily, as has dissatisfaction with weight among boys. While tooth brushing habits and daily fruit consumption have remained relatively stable, there's been an increase in daily consumption of sweets among girls. Notably, soft drink consumption has increased among girls since 2018. In addition, the frequency of daily breakfast consumption on weekdays has steadily decreased since 2014. While physical activity levels have improved since 2018, smoking rates have declined among boys but stabilised among girls since 2014. However, alcohol and cannabis consumption rates have shown mixed trends, with notable increases among girls in recent years. Incidents of bullying in schools have decreased significantly since 2010, although the number of students who feel burdened by the demands of school has increased. Positive relationships with peers and teachers have decreased since 2014, as has the proportion of students having strong conversations with at least one parent.

Main concepts

Improving the health and well-being of young people in Austria is seen as an active process that requires the active involvement of young people themselves. Policies, measures and activities related to youth and health (Jugend und Gesundheit) should prioritise the specific needs, development and circumstances of young people, guided by the principles of youth empowerment. 

The concept of ‘health in all policies’ (Gesundheit in allen Politikfeldern) emphasizes the importance of integrating health considerations at all levels and in all sectors of society. This approach recognises that effective and sustainable promotion of population health requires coordinated efforts across all policy areas. It therefore calls for appropriate and accessible health promotion initiatives that empower young people to effectively maintain and improve their health. 

Strategies to improve the well-being of children and adolescents, such as the Health Strategy for Children and Adolescents (Kinder- und Jugendgesundheitsstrategie) and the Austrian Health Targets, are actively implemented throughout Austria. The Austrian Youth Strategy prioritises health, especially in the field of action ‘quality of life and togetherness’ (Lebensqualität und Miteinander – Gesundheit und Jugend). As a cross-sectoral agenda, several ministries in addition to the Federal Chancellery are committed to promoting the health and healthy lifestyles of young people, each with specific youth-oriented goals. In this context, for example, the Federal Ministry of Health is actively promoting the improvement of psychosocial health through the promotion of health and life skills among young people (Jugendziel: Steigerung der psychosozialen Gesundheit) (see also chapter 7.2 Administration and governance). 

Furthermore, out-of-school youth work prioritises personal development, physical, mental and emotional well-being as well as health education. Initiatives such as 'Health competence in the setting of out-of-school professional youth work' (Gesundheitskompetenz Jugendlicher stärken) by the Austrian Youth Info Network (BÖJI) and 'Health competence in youth work' (Gesundheitskompetente Jugendarbeit) by the national networks of open youth work (bOJA) aim to strengthen health competence in the setting of professional youth work.