7.1 General context
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SLOfit is a national surveillance system for the physical and motor development of children and youth that was formerly known as Sports Educational Chart. The system was implemented in 1982 with a sample of Slovenian schools, and after five years of testing, it was introduced to all Slovenian primary and secondary schools. Every year, all primary and secondary schools and the university student population in Slovenia participate in SLOfit.
After almost ten years of accelerated decline in movement capacity, a 2015/16 report found that, in the prior five years, children and youth had either stagnated or progressed, depending on age group and sex. In school year 2015/2016, a resurgence of excessive nutrition and a consequent decline in childhood and youth physical performance occurred. The study also found a deterioration in pupils’ abilities; a slightly lesser decrease was found among female pupils and students. An increase in body-mass among female pupils and students was fortunately due not only to the increase in fat content. It is worrisome that the study observed once again an increased the share of less physically competent pupils and secondary school students, and in parallel, a reduced share of those who are physically talented.
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.
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 national youth organisation No Excuse Slovenia (Mladinska zveza Brez izgovora Slovenija) has summarised the report of the National Institute of Public Health showing that the latest data on adolescents aged 11, 13 and 15 are encouraging, as the prevalence of smoking among these age groups significantly decreased between 2010 and 2014. According to data from 2014, every seventh 15-year-old youth smokes at least once a week, and every sixth smokes for the first time by age 13 or younger.
In the spirit of World Suicide Prevention Day, the National Institute of Public Health disclosed the latest information and data on suicide rates in Slovenia. RTV Slovenia (RTV Slovenija) says that the trends among young people remain unchanged. While the number of suicides has generally decreased, statistics show no significant change in suicide numbers among young people. About 20 young people annually commit suicide, a trend that has existed for quite some time. Among youth, there are many more so-called self-inflicted injuries, since young people often express their distress by cutting or otherwise harming themselves. There are also large differences between the sexes. Thus, girls often think about suicidal behaviour, but the number of deaths resulting from suicide is much higher among the young male population.
According to a diploma paper from 2016, ‘Suicide among young people in Slovenia’ (Samomorilnost med mladimi v Sloveniji), Slovenia has been among countries with higher suicide rates for years, which is also shown in EU data from 2010. With a suicide rate of 18.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, Slovenia is ranked fourth among EU member states. In Slovenia, suicide among young people under the age of 25 is one of the three main causes of death of young people. Suicide is the most commonly recorded cause of death among adolescents aged between age 14 and 19. In 2009, the National Institute of Public Health published a report on suicides among Slovenian youth (Spregovorimo o samomoru med mladimi). The study found that every year in Slovenia, 20 young people commit suicide, which places Slovenia slightly above the European average. Among youth suicides, the number of boys is almost four times the number of girls. The authors classify causes for suicides into three groups: individual causes (such as mental disorders, personality traits, drug or alcohol abuse etc.), family causes (such as loss of a parent, abuse etc.) and environmental causes (such as influence of media, peers, internet etc.).
See earlier data on youth health and trends below.
The Youth 2010 (Mladina 2010), comprehensive research and survey of young Slovenian people showed that demographic trends were not positive, as from 2010 to 2020 the number of young people in Slovenia (15–29 years) was expected to be reduced by more than 20%. Regarding trends in health and well-being, the researchers pointed out following seven trends among young people in Slovenia:
- Over the course of the 15 years prior to 2010 (when the research was conducted), the number of traffic accidents and suicides decreased as the most common causes of mortality among young people (they are still the most common ones but the numbers have gone down).
- The satisfaction of young people with their lives and health is comparable with other age groups. Compared with other European countries, Slovenian youth are relatively satisfied with life in general. Four-fifths of Slovenian youth are satisfied or very satisfied with their health.
- More than two-thirds of young people have a normal weight. However, compared with research conducted in 2000, the share of overweight or obese people is increasing. Males and people in rural areas make up larger numbers of overweight or obese young people.
- The use of tobacco and tobacco products among young people is slightly declining, but more young people have had experiences using alcohol and illicit drugs. The consumption of tobacco and alcohol among men in the ‘student’ age group and in the urban environment has grown more frequent. Experiences with illicit drugs are more typical among men in urban environments.
- In summary, in all the findings of the analysis of Slovenian youth’s state of health (excluding subjective assessments on satisfaction with life, health and body image), males are expected to be the most differentiated risk group.
- The age group of young people between 19–24 years, so-called students or youth, is particularly vulnerable to the most common causes of death among young people (traffic accidents and suicides) and risky heath behaviour.
- In nutrition, special attention should be focused on young people in the countryside, as there are 10 percent more overweight and obese, compared with urban areas.
Slovenian Youth 2013, a successive study of young Slovenian people, shows the following trends among young people in respective fields:
- Self-rated health (SRH):
- Of respondents (aged 15+), 61.7% rated their health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
- The same data indicate that the highest levels of self-rated health are among youth (aged 15–29), with 87.1% rating their health as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
- A longitudinal analysis of the Slovenian Health Behaviour In School-Aged Children (HBSC) 2002, 2006 and 2010 data indicates a statistically significant decrease in the proportion of adolescents rating their health as ‘poor’ or ‘fair’. The analysis also shows that the decrease during this period was detected only among girls. On the other hand, boys rated their health significantly higher than girls in each of the observed years.
- 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; 5thhighest 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.
- There was a significant increase in the proportion of 15-year-olds who reported having consumed their first alcoholic beverage at the age of 13 or earlier.
- Boys reported drinking alcohol more frequently than girls did; trends from the observed period indicate that girls are beginning to drink as frequently as boys.
- 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.
- The percentage of non-smokers also increased (from 54% to 60%).
- Smoking has remained popular among one-quarter of Slovenian youth.
- Body-mass index (BMI):
- Comparing youth study data from 2010 and 2013, the proportion of overweight young people increased minimally by 1.3%.
- The proportion of youth within the ‘normal’ range fell from 74.1% to 71.6%, largely due to an increase in underweight youth from 3.8% to 5.0%.
- The proportion of overweight or obese youth is higher among men, older youth and youths not enrolled in school.
- An unhealthy lifestyle and self-rated health:
- Those who reported a higher frequency of smoking also consumed alcohol more frequently. Smoking was not significantly associated with BMI, while BMI was associated with alcohol use.
- Associations between the three risk behaviours (alcohol, tobacco use and BMI) and self-rated health were examined, controlling for the same standard socio-demographic variables. Interestingly, alcohol use was not significantly associated with self-rated health, while more frequent tobacco use and higher body-mass index were associated with poorer self-health ratings.
- General trends:
- In 2013, self-rated health levels among Slovenian youth were similar to youth populations from other countries.
- Self-rated health was significantly higher among men. There was no explanation for this trend.
- Two per cent of Slovenian youth reported consuming alcohol ‘regularly/daily’, which was a decrease over 2010, when 4% reported being ‘daily’ drinkers.
- In 2013, data showed an increase in the non-drinking population from 2010.
- 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%).
- Between 2010 and 2013, the proportion of obese youth remained stable.
- The proportion of overweight youth increased by 1.3 percentage points.
- 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 and those within the normal weight range.
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.