Self-harm, anxiety, depression and eating disorders among young people are set to rise over the coming years, according to predictions made in a recent government report.

Released by the government’s Horizon Scanning Team – a group of senior civil servants who work to identify future trends – the report found that “risky behaviours” like drinking, smoking and taking drugs have seen a decline among adolescents, whereas loneliness, social isolation and self-harm are growing potential threats.

The report shed light onto the results of a 2002 survey released by the British Medical Journal, in which 6.9 per cent of 15 and 16-year-olds reported self-harming, and a 2013-14 World Health Organisation survey that showed 20 per cent of 15-year-olds admitting to the act.

These findings were taken as an indication that self-harm rates in the UK could be getting worse.

Social isolation was also highlighted as an issue among young people, with research showing that those aged between 18 and 34 are more likely to have felt depressed than older age groups because they felt alone, and just as likely to often feel lonely.

The report stated: “For some people, loneliness may be associated with excessive internet use. Social isolation is also a potential consequence of unemployment and may lead to wider negative impacts.”

It went on to point out a link between digital media use and the risk of behaviours such as cyberbullying, violent computer games and early sexualisation.

“There is clear evidence that moderate use of technology is likely to have significant positive impacts, such as improved wellbeing and social connectedness,” the report continued.

“However, for the small minority of young people who use technology heavily, there could be a range of negative impacts. It is possible that this trend could intensify as young people’s social interactions become increasingly technologically mediated by new devices and applications.

“This implies that young people may need support to ensure they use technologies in a way that encourages wellbeing, and to ensure that the quantity and content of technology they use is not having a detrimental impact.”

Did you know we have recently worked with Safeguarding boards to develop a course on ‘Self-harm and suicidal thoughts in children and young people’? To find out more, click here.

Children and Young People Now

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