Skip to main content
EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki


7. Health and Well-Being

7.1 General context

On this page
  1. Main trends in the health conditions of young people
  2. Main concepts

Main trends in the health conditions of young people

Over the past 15 years Malta has experienced a rise in life expectancy and Maltese people spend on average close to 90% of their lifespan in good health. Life expectancy at age 15 has increased from 63.86 years in 2000 to 67.77 years in 2014, being higher among females than males (WHO, 2016a).


According to the Health Behaviour of School-aged Children Study, the percentage of Maltese 15 year olds rating their health as fair or poor is higher than many other countries, with a high proportion of Maltese youngsters reporting multiple health complaints more than once per week (WHO, 2016b).


HCBS Study among 15 year oldsMalta   
Fair or poor health30%13%21%13%
Multiple health complaints65%44%50%27%

The self-perceived health of young people aged between 16 and 29 has been relatively stable since 2005. Those rating their health as very good or good ranged from 91.8% in 2010 to 96.7% in 2006, with less than 1% rating their health as bad or very bad (Eurostat, 2010).


Daily tobacco smoking prevalence has decreased from 23.4% in 2002 to 20.1% in 2014, with WHO estimated age-standardized prevalence of current tobacco smoking among those aged 15 years and over standing at 25.9% in 2003 (30.9% in males and 20.9% in females) (WHO, 2016a).Specifically in the 15-29 year age group, figures from 2008 show the prevalence of daily smokers to be 20.9%, with 16.8% of females who smoke, and 25.3% of males smoking  (Eurostat, 2010). Looking just at 15 year olds, 12% of girls and 11% of boys report smoking at least once a week, which is in the same as the HBSC average. (WHO, 2016b).


Information in the draft National Alcohol Policy shows that binge drinking in adults has increased between 2008 and 2014 (results from European Health Interview Survey). However, data from the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) shows a downward decline in most patterns of alcohol use among young people aged 15 and 16. Alcohol use (20+ times) in the last 12 months declined from 51% in 1999 to 19% in 2015, while alcohol use in the last 30 days declined from 30% to 11%. Heavy episodic drinking in the last month (drinking more than five drinks in a row) declined from 57% in 2007 to 47% in 2015. Drunkenness in the last 30 days also declined from 19% in 2007 to 15% in 2016.


Looking just at Maltese 15 year olds, 26% of girls and 32% of boys report drinking alcohol at least once a week, the highest percentages in the HBSC study (WHO, 2016b).


Obesity is the principal public health problem in Malta, with 25% of the adult population and 27% of children (aged 11–15 years) being obese: the highest rate in the EU.  (WHO, 2017)


Age-standardised prevalence (WHO estimated %) of overweight in people aged over 18 years increased from 62.1% in 2010 to 64% in 2014, and of obesity increased from 24.7%  in 2010 to 26.6% in 2014 (WHO, 2016a). Obesity levels in the youth age group (16 - 29 years) in 2008 were 13.8% of males and 11.5% of females (Eurostat, 2008). Looking particularly at 15 year olds, Malta’s youngsters top the charts when it comes to overweight and obesity, with over a third of adolescents found to be overweight or obese by the HBSC study, which demonstrated that boys tend to have significantly higher prevalence. 26% of girls and 34% of boys are overweight or obese, alot higher than the HBSC average of 13% in girls and 22% in boys (WHO, 2016b)


Tying in with this are the nutrition habits of the Maltese. The proportion of adolescents consuming soft drinks daily was highest in Malta (37%), and while decline in such consumption has been observed in almost all countries and regions and among boys and girls, no significant change in consumption over time was seen for girls in Malta. Significant decreases in daily fruit consumption were observed in boys and girls in five Malta between 2002 and 2014, however at the same time, adolescents in Malta reported the one of the largest increases in vegetable intake over time (WHO 2017).


According to the 2012 National Sexual Health Survey 78% of those aged 16 – 40 years old are sexually active. 41% of those aged 16 to 18 report having had sexual intercourse. 41% of those sexually active reported having known their partner for a few months, while 6% had only just met before having intercourse.  As many as 30.1% did not use contraception during their first sexual intercourse encounter. With 20.7% having had 6 or more sexual partners in their lifetime, multiple partners are more common among males. Sexually transmitted infections were diagnosed by a medical professional in 6.6% of respondents).


According to the Infectious disease prevention and control unit within the HIV has a relatively higher prevalence in Malta compared to other European countries, and while there is an increasing trend in HIV incidence in Malta since 2009, among the 15-24 age group this has been minimal.

Data from the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study (HBSC) shows that across all age groups surveyed, the percentage of boys and girls in Malta who report either feeling ‘low’ or feeling ‘nervous’ is higher than the average amongst the 48 countries and regions surveyed in Europe and North America. The proportion increases with age such that more than a quarter of children aged 15 report feeling low and more than one third report feeling nervous. Girls consistently report these feelings more commonly than boys. A study conducted locally in 2007 showed that 21.3% of Form 3 students were at risk of developing depression. A similar subsequent study in 2015, found that 27.3% of Form 4 students were at risk of developing depression  indicating an increasing trend in risk.

Main concepts

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO)

Mental Health Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community (WHO)

Wellness: the optimal state of health of individuals and groups. There are two focal concerns: the realization of the fullest potential of an individual physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically, and the fulfillment of one’s role expectations in the family, community, place of worship, workplace and other settings (WHO).

Obesity: the condition of severe overweight where a person has a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 30. The obesity rate is the proportion of the total population (or of a subgroup based on gender, age, etc.) with a BMI of 30 or above (Eurostat)

Drugs: All drugs including medicines, volatile substances, alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs (World Health Organisation WHO).

Drug use: Drug taking through which harm may occur, whether through intoxication, breach of laws or school rules, or the possibility of future health problems, although such harm may not be immediately perceptible. Drug use will require interventions such as management, education, advice and information, and prevention work to reduce the potential for harm.

Drug misuse: Drug taking which harms health or functioning. It may take the form of physical or psychological dependence or be part of a wider spectrum of problematic or harmful behaviour. Drug misuse will require treatment.

Harm reduction techniques: A range of public health policies designed to reduce the harmful consequences associated with human behaviours, even if these behaviours are risky or illegal.