Self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety and depression biggest risk factors young people face, says government think-tank

Young people are more likely to engage in self-harm and suffer from eating disorders, anxiety and depression in the coming years as traditional "risky behaviours" show a marked decline, according to a report by a government think-tank.

The research carried out by the Horizon Scanning Team, made up of senior civil servants who identify future trends, revealed that behaviours such as drinking, smoking, taking drugs and criminal behaviour were being overtaken by incidences of self-harm as well as reports of social isolation, loneliness, anxiety and body appearance issues among young people.

Children and Young People Now has published details of the report which states that there is a shortage of reliable data on the extent of self-harm by young people mainly because it is an issue that "many people will keep hidden and not seek help for".

A 2002 survey by the British Medical Journal is referenced in the report in which nearly 7 per cent of 15 and 16-year-olds said they had self-harmed as well as a 2013/2014 World Health Organisation survey in which 20 per cent of 15-year-olds said they had self-harmed - both indications the issue may be getting worse.

The report also highlights social isolation as an issue facing young people drawing on studies which show that UK young people aged between 18 and 34 are just as likely to often feel lonely as older age groups and more likely to have felt depressed because they felt alone.

It says: "For some people, loneliness may be associated with excessive internet use. Social isolation is also a potential consequence of unemployment and may leader to wider negative impacts."

Read the report in full here