7. Health and Well-Being
7.1 General context
Last update: 15 March 2021
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Main trends in the health conditions of young people
Serbia collects data on young people health through different research and data collection mechanisms. The Institute of Public Health of Serbia issues yearly Health Statistical Yearbook of Republic of Serbia that provide statistical data on diagnosed diseases, conditions and injuries derived from the Youth and School children health services.
The Health Survey of the Population of Serbia in 2019 is a national survey that the Republic Statistical Office in cooperation with the Institute of Public Health of Serbia and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Serbia conducted in the period from October 1 to December 30, 2019, in accordance with international standards (European Health Interview Survey - EHIS, wave 3).
According to the report of an international research Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) in 2018 in Serbia, three quarters of the fifth grade primary school pupils rated their health as excellent (74.5% of boys and 75.7% of girls). Slightly fewer pupils consider their health to be excellent in the seventh grade of primary school (71% of boys and 61.7% of girls), while in the first grade of secondary school the smallest number of pupils rated their health as excellent (64.9% of boys and 50.1% girls).
The report further states that the majority (83%) of school-aged children are normally nourished, yet the obesity of children and adolescents in Serbia is on the increase, which can be tied to poor eating habits. A review of the nutrition habits of young people shows that less than 20 per cent of adolescents aged 13 to 15 years eat fruit at least once a day, while only around 25 per cent of them eat vegetables once a day. On the other side, more than 40 per cent of adolescents consume sweets at least once a day. Almost one-fifth of adolescents drink soft drinks more than once a day and the consumption of these beverages increases with the age.
Although young people self-assess their health highly, the report shows that among the primary health challenges that young people face are smoking, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and abuse and/or neglect, while injuries resulting from accidents remains the leading cause of death. A large number of young people first come into contact with psychoactive substances (tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs) during adolescence. 14.5% of pupils in the 5th and 7th grades of primary schools and the first grades of secondary schools smoked at least once in their lifetime. The frequency of smoking increases with age, with as many as 28.3% of first-grade high school pupils smoking at least once in their lives. Almost every second pupil (45.4%) in the 5th and 7th grade of primary schools and the 1st grade of secondary schools tried alcohol.
Prevalence of alcohol consumption ever during life among students of 5th and 6th grades of primary schools and 1st grade of secondary schools, by sex and grade (%)
Source: Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC)Report 2018, Institute for Public Health of Serbia
When it comes to sexual and reproductive health, low rate of contraceptive use is being reported especially among young women, which is affiliated with the increase in the sexually transmitted infections (STIs). HBSC report show that the largest number of the first graders in secondary schools (44%) had their first sexual intercourse at the age of 15.
In the past decade, gambling has become popular among adolescents. The results of the HBSC research show that 34.6% of the 1st grade high school students in Serbia gambled.Youth also suffer from higher rates of mental and behavioural disorders, including addiction, depression and suicide, than the general population. A survey on the health status of people in Serbia indicated that 4.1 % of the total population display symptoms of depression. In 2018, 28 persons aged 15-24 years and 54 persons for aged 25-34 years committed suicide (RSZO). The data show a higher suicide rates in males than females, and in urban compared to rural youth population. The incidence of suicide is higher in the regions of Vojvodina and Belgrade than in the rest of the country (UNICEF).
The Law on public health follows the health concept by WHO, defining it as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. In addition, the Law defines mental health as behaviour, thinking, speech, feelings and mood of an individual, a relationship to oneself and others and as an integral part of individual health, well-being and community development. Social health includes the ability to form satisfactory interpersonal relationships, but also refers to the ability to adapt to different social situations and to respond appropriately in a variety of environments.