UNICEF: Ukrainian adolescents neglect their health, eat unhealthy food and spend their lives on social networks

UNICEF has published the findings of its research on: “Social conditionality and indicators of adolescent and youth health in Ukraine.”

22 May 2019

Kyiv, Ukraine, 22 May 2019: Today, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has published the findings of its research on: “Social conditionality and indicators of adolescent and youth health in Ukraine.” The new sociological survey provides a detailed statistical account of the health of school children, and the impact of various factors on their well-being and behaviour patterns.

“Education and behaviour shaping of adolescents are key prerequisites of a healthy and peaceful society. In our survey, Ukrainian adolescents reported low levels of exercise and mostly unhealthy eating habits. They have reported the spread of bullying and cyberbullying, violence in schools and insufficient everyday support from their families. This is affecting their educational outcomes and could, in the long run, affect their health and well-being in adulthood,” said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, “We urge students, teachers, parents, communities and media to work together to promote healthy lifestyles and create a supportive school environment.”

Self-rated health and mental well-being

Using the body mass index, every third adolescent is overweight. One in five adolescents consider their health to be ‘so-so or ‘poor.’ Girls tend to rate their health twice as worse as boys – one in three girls consider their health to be ‘so-so or ‘poor.’ This is almost twice as high as the global average and six times higher than in countries such as North Macedonia.

More than a half the adolescents complained of being nervous, irritated or having bad moods once a week or more. In addition, every third adolescent reported feeling depressed, with girls more likely to report this.

Every fourth respondent claimed that over the past year, they had experienced a level of sadness or hopelessness that made them stop their regular activities for two consecutive weeks. This was reported by every third girl (31 per cent) and every fifth boy (21 per cent).

Family and its impact on health of adolescents

One in three mothers of school children do not know what their children are doing in their free time. Moreover, almost half the school children indicated that their fathers did not know who their friends were. Every third adolescent never plays with her or his parents at home, and one in five never take part in sports activities with their parents.

Compared to the previous survey, the number of adolescents who felt their parents support in their decision making increased from 78 per cent in 2014 to 85 per cent in 2018.

Tobacco, alcohol and other substances

When children reach 10 years of age, one in seven already have experience of consuming alcohol, while over 60 per cent of 17-year-olds have consumed alcohol at least once in their lives. One in four adolescents have been intoxicated at least once in their lives, with figures of 6.4 per cent for 10-year-olds and 48 per cent for 17-year-olds.

Among 11-17 year olds, 16 per cent of girls and 24 per cent of boys have experience of using tobacco. Tobacco consumption among 15-year-old boys is especially worrying. More than 40 per cent of boys in this age group reported that they smoke. This is twice as high as in Armenia and much higher than the average for all the countries participating in the survey (34 per cent).

Eight per cent of 13-17 year-olds have used marijuana at least once in their lifetimes. This is significantly less than the figure in the 2012 baseline survey (23 per cent).

Sexually transmitted infections and HIV infection

One in four boys and one in eight girls aged 13-17 have experience of sexual intercourse. One in three adolescents who had experience of sex did not use a condom during the first sexual intercourse.

Only 12 per cent of respondents know the transmission routes of HIV. This is significantly lower than the necessary level of awareness of young people (95 per cent). Teachers (57 per cent), the Internet (56 per cent), health workers (45 per cent) and parents (40 per cent) play the biggest roles in disseminating information about HIV and AIDS. More than a half of respondents know where to eek HIV testing.

Bullying and violence in education environment

One in three school children took part in fights at least once a year. Thirty-eight per cent of respondents reported being victims of intimidation, humiliation and mistreatment in the previous two months.

Thirty-five per cent of the adolescents admitted that during the last two months, they had offended or humiliated others. Of these, 23 per cent did so “once or twice,” and 3.5 per cent, “several times a week.” Every fifth girl resorts to fighting.

One in five adolescents admitted having offended peers online, and 21.5 per cent reported suffering cyberbullying.

Social networks and virtual communication

A quarter of the adolescents constantly feel that they cannot think of anything other than the moment when they will be able to use social networks again. Every tenth adolescent regularly lied to their parents or friends about the time they spend in social networks. The highest share of such children is among 10-year-old boys (17.2 per cent).

Almost every eighth respondent (12.6 per cent) is addicted to social networks. The highest addiction rate is reported by 15-year-old girls (15 per cent).

Social activity of adolescents

Over 20 per cent of adolescents are involved in the activities of child and youth NGOs: with 11.5 per cent being members and 11 per cent more  participating in their activities. More than half are potentially willing to participate in civic initiatives in their neighbourhoods, streets or buildings, and one in five is ready to initiate such actions.

Almost 16 per cent of adolescents are involved in student self-government in schools or universities. Fifteen per cent reported that their schools had no self-government bodies, and 40 per cent more did not know whether there was one.


On the HBSC survey:

Ukraine is a full-fledged participant of the World Health Organization’s international “Health Behaviour in School-aged Children” (HBSC) research project, conducted in 49 countries of Europe and North America. Since it began, five waves of the survey have taken place in Ukraine: in 2002, a total of 5,267 persons were surveyed; in 2006 6,535; in 2010 10,343; in 2014 11,390; and in 2018 13,337.

The 2018 poll was conducted by the Oleksandr Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute for Social Research in cooperation with UNICEF in 287 schools. The survey covered students in secondary school Grades 5-11, Years 1 and 2 of vocational technical schools, and students at pre-university education establishments (enrolled after graduating from 9-year secondary education programmes). These respondents are studying children and youth aged 10-17 years.

In Ukraine, the survey was made possible thanks to the support of numerous partner organizations, including the Ministry of Health of Ukraine (which set up the project working group), the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, and UNICEF.

Check here for the full text of the report.

Media contacts

Nina Sorokopud
Chief of Communication
UNICEF in Ukraine


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