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EACEA National Policies Platform


7. Health and Well-Being

7.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Main trends in the health conditions of young people
  2. Main concepts

Main trends in the health conditions of young people

National research Youth 2020 reports that  the proportion of young people who are predominantly or very satisfied with their health has fallen from about 80% to about 70% in the last decade, and the general satisfaction of young people with life has also declined significantly. This decline in satisfaction occurred despite the simultaneous improvement of some aspects of young people’s health and living standards. Young who are active in sport, eat more often fresh fruit and vegetable, those who don’t smoke tabacoo or marihuana or use other prohibited drogs and those who have “normal” body mass index.


According to the National Institute of Public Health (Nacionalni inštitut za javno zdravje), in 1993 13.7% of children and adolescents were overweight in Slovenia, and 3.1% of children and adolescents were obese. By 2010, these figures had risen to 19.6% overweight and 7.3% obese children and adolescents. After 2010, Slovenia witnessed a halt in the rise in childhood obesity, and in 2015, 18.2% were overweight and 6.6% were obese. Data from various studies show that Slovenia was more successful with youths than with the elderly, more successful with boys than with girls and more successful in Western and Central Slovenia than in Eastern Slovenia. A number of measures that are already being introduced or are under preparation will target the reduction of obesity in more vulnerable groups of children and adolescents.


The research Mladina 2020 (Youth 2020) also reports, that about one-tenth of young people (in Slovenia and the EU) aged between 25 and 29 have such a high body mass index that it endangers their health. Compared to 2010, the share of young people with a BMI index greater than 30 in this group has increased by 50%, and at the level of the entire population by about 35%. There are also more malnourished young people (+46%), with young women leading the way. Thus, there are fewer and fewer young people with “normal weight” where it is important to note that this situation deteriorates with age (i.e., older age groups exhibit more deviation from the norm).


As many as one-fifth of girls and one-quarter of boys have a body weight higher than recommended. Therefore, the National Programme for Youth 2013–2022 (Resolucija o Nacionalnem programu za mladino 2013–2022) has the objective of ‘promoting regular physical activity, balanced nutrition and maintenance of the recommended body weight among young people’. The approach will be followed also in the new the National Programme for Youth 2023–2032.


General finidng of the research Youth 2020 is that in a longitudinal perspective, young people in 2020 are living on average healthier than in 2010 – drinking less alcohol and less smoking tobacco, while at the same time eating healthier and engaging in more sports. Nevertheless, when compared to 2010, young people in 2020 are less satisfied with their health, showing that other factors, such as feelings of parental love, stress, or loneliness, also have a significant impact on young people’s health. The share of young people that perceive loneliness as a problem has increased by 76% in ten years, as well as the share of young people who feel stress a few or most days a week (by 110%). These findings, together with the average increase in body weight, indicate a general deterioration in young people’s psychophysical health, which is not offset by the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.


The main predictors of higher levels of stress include being female, poorer relationships with parents, the amount of time young people spend in front of smartphones and computers, a negative climate at school or at work, and the family having a lower financial status. Elements of mental health problems can also be inferred from the context of adjustment strategies that young people adopt when facing problems. It is worrying that as many as 14% of them turned to alcohol or drugs due to the aforementioned problems.


The World Health Organization draws attention to the fact a fifth of young people is affected by mental disorders. Data show that depression is one of the leading causes of work incapacity and that about half of the mental disorders begin before the age of 14. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young adults aged 19-25. Society's concern for mental health is based on the good mental health of children and young people, as half of all mental disorders begin before the age of 14, and as many as three-quarters by the age of 24. Therefore, the authors of the research Mladina 2020 call for a reconsideration of the "costs and benefits of a productive society, or the current model of development, which is not favorable to the mental health of young people."In 2021, the National Institute of Public Health surveyed students' mental health. Seven thousand one hundred fifty-four students completed the survey, whose average age was 22.85 years. Among the participants, as many as 54.94% of respondents confirmed the presence of moderate to severe symptoms of depression, and 51.3% reported moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety. Before the pandemic, 31.6% of students sought help in case of mental distress, while during the pandemic, 56% of participants sought help. Covid-19 has significantly impacted the rise in mental distress among young people.


In 2020, for the first time, the National Institute of Public Health surveyed health-related behaviors among adolescents who do not attend school (and are not employed) but participate in the Project Learning of Young Adults (PUM-O) program. The research was conducted online using the adapted international HBSC questionnaire and gave us an insight into (mental) health, lifestyle, and some risky behaviors of young dropouts. The participants of the PUM-O program show worse mental health than their educated or employed peers, and the proportion of those with suicidal thoughts is also twice as high among the participants of the PUM-O program. The attitude toward their own body among the participants of the PUM-O program differs from that among school-aged adolescents because they see themself as slightly or significantly too thin and less as slightly or extremely overweight. The participants of the PUM-O program have a less healthy lifestyle than their educated peers. They eat less fruit and vegetables for breakfast, to a lesser extent, practice physical or sports activities in their free time, and to a greater extent, regularly consume sweetened and energy drinks. The prevalence of tobacco and related products among PUM-O program participants is significantly higher than in the general population of comparable age, and the consumption of alcoholic beverages is also typical.


See earlier data on youth health and trends below.

Slovenian Youth 2020, a successive study of young Slovenian people, shows the following trends among young people in respective fields:

  • Alcohol use and attitudes toward alcohol:
    • Between 1995 and 2011, there was an increase in the proportion of adolescent respondents reporting the consumption of any alcoholic beverage during the past 12 months (87% in 2011; 5th highest among participating countries) and an increase in the proportion having had five or more drinks on one occasion during the past 30 days (53% in 2011; 5th highest among participating countries). Between 2007 and 2011, there was an increase in estimated average alcohol consumption among those who reported using alcohol. Results from the Youth 2010 survey show similar results, while Youth 2020 shows that consumption of alcohol is in decline.
    • Widespread alcohol use among Slovenian youth is likely a consequence of the ubiquity of alcohol in Slovenian society. Slovenia is rather tolerant of the practice, and adults tend to consume alcohol frequently.


  • Tobacco use:
    • In 2013, every fourth young person reported smoking daily, and 40% of Slovenian youth smoked at least occasionally (regularly or occasionally). Among youth, 60.0% were ‘non-smokers’. Compared with the findings of the Youth 2010 study, the proportion of regular smokers increased (although minimally) in 2013, but results from 2020 shows that number of smokers in in decline.


  • General trends:
    • In 2013, self-rated health levels among Slovenian youth were similar to youth populations from other countries, the same trend is reported in 2020.
    • Self-rated health was significantly higher among men. There was no explanation for this trend.
    • In 2013 two per cent of Slovenian youth reported consuming alcohol ‘regularly/daily’, which was a decrease over 2010, when 4% reported being ‘daily’ drinkers  and in 2020 the number fell again.
    • In 2013, data showed an increase in the non-drinking population from 2010 as well in 2020.
    • Almost three-quarters (74%) of Slovenian youth believed alcohol is ‘acceptable’.
    • Compared with 2010, the proportion of ‘regular’ smokers remained stable in 2013. The percentage of ‘non-smokers’ increased in this period (from 54% to 60%), the positive trend is seen also in 2020.
    •  Between 2010 and 2013, the proportion of obese youth remained stable, though the proportion in 2020 increased by 35%. The number of malnourished young has grown by 46% compared to 2010, among more women than men, representing 7% of all young people in Slovenia.
    • Youth who smoked also consumed alcohol more frequently.
    • Smoking was not significantly associated with the risk of being overweight or obese, while being overweight or obese was associated with alcohol use.
    • The healthiest youth in Slovenia (as measured by self-rated health) were non-smokers, didn’t drink alcohol, ate healthier, did sport, and those within the normal weight range.
    • The healthiest youth in Slovenia (as measured by self-rated health) were non-smokers, didn’t drink alcohol, ate healthier, did sport, and those within the normal weight range.
    • Increased feelings of loneliness and mental health problems are on the rise.
    • There is a marked increase in the feeling of loneliness among young people - the share of lonely young people has increased by 76% in the last decade, while the share of young people who feel stressed several days or most days of the week has increased by 110%.
    • 14% of young people have already resorted to alcohol or other drugs due to problems related to mental health.


Main concepts

According to the National Institute of Public Health, public health is defined as the science and skill of preventing disease, strengthening health and prolonging life through organised societal efforts.