Bulgarian Youth - First in the EU in Severe Deprivation, Pregnancy and Obesity
Bulgaria is second in the EU at risk of poverty and social exclusion among young people and the first in the share of pregnant women in teenage age. It is also one of the countries with the most obese adolescents. Only in Slovakia there were fewer young people aged 18-24 at risk of depression.
These are part of the conclusions of a report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) on inequalities in young people's access to information and support services. The data covers the period up to 2016 - the last one with data that provides a comparative basis for the whole of the European Union.
According to data, 14% of Europeans aged 18-24 were at risk of depression during the indicated period. This is the highest risk among young people in Sweden, followed by Estonia, Malta, the Netherlands and the UK. The proportion of young people suffering from chronic depression is lower, but there is still serious concern. Figures for 2014 show that 4% of Europeans aged 15-24 have been in this category. Most were in Ireland (12%), followed by Finland (11%), Sweden (10%) and Germany (9%).
The risk of depression is higher in low-income households. Women and young women (15-24 years old) are more prone to depression.
The spread of harassment and cyberbullying is increasing in several countries, with the most prevalent in the Baltic countries and the French speaking community in Belgium.
Among young people in Europe there are significant differences in access to healthcare. For example, the price they often have to pay is a problem for nearly three-quarters of people between 18 and 24 in Cyprus. In Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia and the UK there is a deterioration in most of the access indicators between 2011 and 2016, while in Italy and Slovakia there is an improvement. As a whole, young people with disabilities or chronic illnesses in the EU are more likely to experience difficulties in accessing healthcare, especially in terms of delays, length of waiting and time to visit a doctor.
The report notes that, although many Member States are experiencing economic growth, some young people, especially families with children, do not seem to benefit from the improving economic conditions.
The first part of the report identifies the most common social and health problems for young people between 12 and 24 years of age, divided into two groups: 12-17 and 18-24 years.
In Bulgaria, the youths aged between 12 and 24 for the period 2011-2016 decreased from 18 to about 12 per cent of the total population.
Declines are reported in most Member States, with the absolute highest in Poland (2.8 million), followed by Romania (1.9 million) and Spain (1.3 million). The exceptions are Denmark and the Netherlands, where young people have slightly increased, and Austria, Luxembourg, Sweden and the UK, where their percentage has remained unchanged. In 2016, there were about 39.4 million people aged 18-24 in the EU and 32.7 million between 12 and 17.
According to Eurostat, 20% of people in the second age group in the EU were at risk of poverty and social exclusion in the EU. Among the Member States, Romania is the largest (52%) and Bulgaria (48%, 53% in 2011) and the lowest in Finland (12%) and Denmark (16%). The youngsters between 18 and 24 exposed to this risk were 31%. Most were in Greece (50%), Romania (46%) and Denmark (45%), and at least in the Czech Republic and Malta (both 17%). In Bulgaria, they were 44% compared to 49% in 2011.
In 2016, the lowest level of severe material deprivation occurred in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands (both age groups in each country were below 5%) and the highest in Bulgaria (39% between 12 and 17 and 35% between 18 and 24). In Bulgaria, the difference between the two groups is greatest.
Between 2011 and 2016, the feeling of social exclusion declined among people aged 18-24 in the EU. Improvements in Cyprus and Estonia are greatest. In addition, in 2016, the perception of social exclusion was lower than the EU average in the countries of Northern and Western Europe (a total of 14). This year was the highest in Bulgaria.
According to a Eurobarometer survey in 2016 in more than 20 Member States, more than half of people aged 16 to 30 have felt marginalized (excluded from economic and social life) because of the economic crisis. Highest levels are reported in Greece (93%), Portugal (86%), Cyprus (81%), Spain (79%) and Croatia and Italy (both 78%), Bulgaria (72%).
In 2016, most people (65%) between 18 and 24 years of age, if they needed advice on serious problems, sought support from close relatives, not from a friend, neighbor, or other relative. Family support was most important in Slovakia (87%) and Lithuania (83%). On the other hand, German youths preferred to look for support from someone outside the family (53%). On average, only 1% said in the EU that there was no one to ask for advice, most often in the Czech Republic (8%).
The 2016 data show that 14% of Europeans aged 18-24 were at risk of depression. The youngest Swedes are the most (41%). Followed by Estonia (27%), Malta (22%), the Netherlands (21%) and the United Kingdom (20%). The lowest is in Slovakia (under 1%) and in Bulgaria (about 6%).
Chronic depression among young people is less common than the risk of depression. According to 2014 data, 4% of people aged 15-24 years have suffered from chronic depression. The highest share was in Ireland (12%), followed by Finland (11%), Sweden (10%) and Germany (9%). The lowest is in Romania, Cyprus and Italy. Bulgaria is also among the countries with the lowest percentage of young people suffering from chronic depression - 1.1%.
Young women aged between 15 and 24 are more likely to suffer from depression than young men. The gender gap is greatest in Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Sweden. Only in Cyprus, Greece and Lithuania there is a higher percentage of young men with moderate to severe symptoms of depression. In Bulgaria, women in this age category with symptoms of depression in 2014 were 3.8% and men - 0.6%, ie. difference of over 6 times.
The PIZA 2015 study examines the frequency of moderate and vigorous physical activities outside school among 15-year-olds. Young people in Denmark and Poland participated in vigorous physical activities outside of school most often (4.6 and 4.4 days per week respectively). At the other end of the list are the young people in Austria, France and the UK (less than 3.5 days per week). In terms of moderate sport, the most active were in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland (5.6 days) and at the other pole were in Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain (in less than 4.5 days).
In Bulgaria, the youngsters from this group were busy with sport almost 4 days a week, and moderately - in about 4.5 days.
According to a World Health Organization study in 2014, 6% of Europeans at the age of 15 were overweight or obese. The highest levels of obesity are in Malta, Greece, Bulgaria and Wales (UK). Higher is the percentage of obese youth among boys. The largest differences between the two sexes are observed in Bulgaria (obese or overweight are 11% for girls and 24% for boys), Greece, Hungary, Italy and Poland.
Serious eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are more common among young women, but more and more boys and young men are affected by them.
According to Eurostat data for 2015, the highest percentage of pregnant women in teenage age (between 15 and 19) is observed in Bulgaria (3.9%) and Romania (3.5%) compared to the EU average of 1.1%. The lowest is in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. In Bulgaria and Romania, the percentage of pregnancies of young women aged between 20 and 24 is high (almost 7% in Bulgaria and 7% in Romania). Pregnancy in teenage age is well above the EU average in both Slovakia (2.4%) and Hungary (2.3%).
Since 2010, these cases have declined, but Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania are exceptions.
Interesting is the case with Great Britain, where the highest percentage of pregnancies before the age of 20 was recorded in the 1990s. Between 2000 and 2014, this share has halved due to a number of factors, including longer stays of young people in the education system and better access to contraception, but also a new strategy and media campaign on sexual education launched in 2000. In addition, more money was spent on tackling this problem in the poorer areas where the biggest drop was recorded.
According to Eurostat's 2010 and 2014 Eurostat surveys, between 10-16 year olds, harassment is the most common problem in the Baltic States and the French-speaking community in Belgium. The most serious growth was reported in the UK. Rarely occurs in the Czech Republic, Italy and Sweden, and the most significant decline is recorded in Romania. In Bulgaria, there is only data for 2014, according to which the number of children who face this problem is the fourth highest (15 per cent).
In the "Behavior and Health of School-aged Children" study, a cyber bullying issue was introduced in 2014. Only 4% of young people said they were regularly victims of this kind of harassment. The highest is the percentage in some Eastern European countries, as well as in the UK and Ireland. Although there is little difference between men and women, the exception is Britain and Ireland, where young women have been harassed more often. In Bulgaria and Spain young men were more often subjected to this kind of harassment.
As a major problem with access to health services, young people in Bulgaria aged 18-24 indicate - 74% waiting time (with Romania third in the EU after Malta and the Czech Republic), 65% delay with a review time (second in the EU after Britain and Malta), 48% time (second in the EU after Romania and France, where the percentage is equal), 44% price and 21% distance.
In case of a serious problem or when they feel depressed, Bulgarians aged 18-24 often seek support from their family and second-best friends. Do not seek help from specialists.
Concerning drug-related health risks for the Roma community in Bulgaria, it is noted that it lives in closed communities, which means more limited access to information leading to lack of awareness.
Often the parents themselves are not educated about certain health risks to which young people may be exposed, the report said. According to the "Life per Kilogram" initiative, parents are unaware of eating disorders and disregard the associated symptoms. Also in Bulgaria, specialists tell how parents find it difficult to accept that drug abuse is something that can affect their children.
It is pointed out that the country has a shortage of specialized services dealing with the problems of nutritional disorders and LGBTI people issues. Even when there is a specialized center, there may be a lack of coordination with core services due to the absence of national policies and strategies.
Lack of specialized knowledge and skills on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity is observed among social and health personnel in Bulgaria, especially in small towns.
In the country, drug prevention activities are typically one-off events with brief lectures that provide insufficient support, or may even have the opposite effect, triggering drug-related curiosity among schoolchildren. The challenge is to find places in schools for more structured programs.
According to data from the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, young Bulgarians aged 15-24 are most vulnerable to drug use. The most commonly used drug is cannabis, followed by ecstasy, amphetamines and cocaine.
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