Health Issues and Adolescents: Growing Up, Speaking Out

Health Issues and Adolescents: Growing Up, Speaking Out

Health Issues and Adolescents: Growing Up, Speaking Out

Health Issues and Adolescents: Growing Up, Speaking Out


Most research and policy agendas relating to young people are dominated by adult concerns about young people's health; rarely are the issues looked at from a young person's perspective. Numerous public health campaigns target young people's drinking, smoking, drug-taking and sexual behavior, despite the fact that this is the segment of the population with the lowest morbidity and mortality of any age. Do young people themselves share this concern about their health? This gap in our knowledge may be a critical factor in explaining some of the problems that health educators face in getting young people to transform health knowledge into action.

Based on their own research, Shucksmith and Hendry set adult agendas to one side and explore young people's own views about their health and health behaviors. They provide recommendations about initiatives relevant to a wide range of professionals and researchers involved in the health education of young people.


This book represents an important and novel approach to studying young people’s own self-defined health issues. Despite the acknowledged relevance for health promotion and policy of listening to lay views and understanding the salience of health concerns in people’s daily lives, less attention has been paid to the views and agendas of young people themselves. I was, therefore, very pleased when several of my then colleagues in the Programmes Division at the Health Education Board for Scotland acknowledged this research need and agreed jointly to fund a strategic qualitative study.

The research team from the Centre for Educational Research, University of Aberdeen, was enthusiastic and inventive in their methods of researching with young people and carried out the study in a refreshingly open and flexible manner. It was a pleasure to work with them and with the other members of the advisory committee. Carrying out good qualitative research involves working with research participants in a sensitive and mutually respectful manner so that meaningful data can be constructed. I consider that this study had those qualities; and that this is reflected in the vividness of the accounts from young people of their lives, which are represented in this book.

Although research about health-relevant behaviours in youth has proliferated during the past decade, such work has usually explored ‘adultist’ ideas about health concerns and employed predominantly quantitative methods. Often these health-relevant behaviours have also been documented separately from an understanding of their meaning and salience in young people’s lives as a whole. In addition, there has been a tendency to present young people as a homogeneous group, with little feel for the variety of their views and experiences. The study reported in this book, therefore, provides a refreshingly different qualitative perspective on young people’s health concerns; one which is grounded in an appreciation of the varied lives which they experience in Scotland in the 1990s.

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