What are major health problems today

How healthy are children and young people in Germany?

How are children and young people in Germany? What are the risk factors for your health? And how has this changed over the years? The study on the health of children and adolescents in Germany (KiGGS) provides answers to these questions.

Some diseases and health problems, such as type 2 diabetes or obesity, are related to one's own lifestyle. Till, 12 years old: "For me, a bad lifestyle includes eating a lot of fast food, not exercising and just staring at your cell phone all the time." A healthier lifestyle can prevent many health problems.

What is a good or bad lifestyle for you?

Fini, 10 years  

This is how the KiGGs study works

What about the health of children and adolescents in Germany? The Robert Koch Institute is investigating this question with the KiGGs long-term study. For this purpose, data from almost 18,000 participants between the ages of zero and 17 were collected between 2003 and 2006. These children and adolescents were medically examined and took part in a survey. They were invited to take part in further surveys into adulthood. The parents of the participants were also interviewed about the health of their children. Between 2009 and 2012 there were again surveys, the results of which could be compared with those of the first survey. From 2014 to 2017, the Robert Koch Institute again examined and interviewed some of the previous participants and 10,000 newly admitted girls and boys.
What dangers to the health of children and adolescents can you think of?

Nico, 17 years  
© Robert Koch Institute, Photo: Edgar Zippel

Good general health

The Robert Koch Institute published the results of the last survey in March 2018. The general state of health of children and adolescents in Germany is gratifying: almost 96 percent of the parents of 3 to 17-year-olds surveyed rate it as very good or good. These values ​​are better than when the KiGGS study started. However, the state of health deteriorates with age. In the group of 14 to 17-year-olds it is particularly evident that girls (45.3 percent) are less likely to have very good health than boys (52.4 percent).
Do you feel that there are differences in diet between boys and girls?

Lotti, 14 years  
© Robert Koch Institute

Social origin influences health

According to the KiGGS study, the socio-economic status of families has a particularly large influence on the state of health. The better the parents' education, income and job, the better their health. Children and adolescents who grow up in socio-economically weaker families have a higher risk of health problems.

To what extent could origin or education influence the health of children and adolescents?

Lars, 15 years  

One risk factor has clearly lost its relevance in recent years: smoking is no longer an attraction for many young people in Germany. While the number of young people between the ages of eleven and 17 who smoke daily or occasionally was still 21.4 percent in the period from 2003 to 2006, it fell to 7.3 percent in the last survey period.

Are smoking, alcohol, too much sugar, sedentary lifestyle and little sleep a health hazard?

Leonie, 13 years  
© Robert Koch Institute

Sports and nutritional behavior

According to the KiGGS study, younger children and girls eat more healthily than boys and adolescents between the ages of eleven and 17 years. Although the children and adolescents now drink significantly fewer sugary drinks than at the beginning of the study, their diet has not necessarily improved. Ten years ago vegetables were much more popular with 11 to 17 year olds. The 12-year-old Till thinks that he has a healthy diet, but he also admits: "I could eat more vegetables."
What do you think are the greatest threats to the health of children and adolescents?

Lilly, 13 years

More than 70 percent of the children and young people who took part in the last survey do sports. Boys are more likely to participate in sports than girls. There are also differences in the various age groups. More respondents between the ages of 11 and 17 do sport than in the age group of 3 to 10 year olds. So exercise becomes more and more important with age. The role model function of the parents also plays a major role here.
What is the importance of sport for health?

Zoe, 14 years

Andrea Gehwolf
works as a freelance writer in Munich