RCPCH responds to The Health Survey for England 2015

The 2015 Health Survey for England (HSE) found that 16% of children aged 8 to 15 reported ever having an alcoholic drink - the lowest level ever reported since the HSE began, down from the highest point of 45% in 2003.

The figures, published today by NHS Digital, also show that the proportion of 8 to 15 year olds who reported that they had ever smoked a cigarette has decreased from 19% in 2003 to 4% in 2015.

The Health Survey for England (HSE) gathers information from adults and children to monitor trends in the nation’s health. The 2015 survey includes information on adult health and social care and, for this survey, the number of 2 to 15 year olds included in the survey was increased to enable a specific focus on child health issues.

Responding to the Health Survey for England 2015, Professor Neena Modi, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

“This latest survey provides a snapshot of the health of children in England. There are some very encouraging findings such as few 8 to 15 year-olds smoking and drinking, findings that support efforts to provide strong public health messaging about these issues. I am also glad that the majority of children report being satisfied with life.

"There are also some major areas where ongoing effective action is needed. For example, over a third of children remain exposed to second hand smoke. This is hugely damaging to their health, making them more susceptible to infections and asthma, and increasing the risk of sudden infant death in the very young.

“Children’s physical activity also gives cause for great concern with over three quarters of 5-15 year-olds not meeting the 60 minutes of physical activity recommended every day. This combined with the fact that children and their parents find it hard to identify that they are overweight makes it easy to see why the prevalence of obesity in the UK is not going down. The worrying truth is that families and society at large are simply becoming oblivious to obesity because it has become so common.

“Both of these issues need to be tackled early so parents must be made aware when they themselves are young, of the dangers of smoking around children, the benefits of giving up smoking before starting a family, and the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. This is why teaching children life skills is so important and why the RCPCH wants to see Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) provided by all schools. There is no better foundation that a civilised society can give children than knowledge about sexual, physical, and mental health that will stand them in good stead throughout life.”

A copy of the full report can be accessed on the NHS Digital website.