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The UK scores badly for teenage drinking and pregnancy

According to a study in the Lancet medical journal, Britain has the third-highest proportion of teenagers who are sexually active at an early age and also ranks badly among high-income nations for harmful teenage drinking.

The UK has high numbers of teenagers drinking alcohol

According to a study in the Lancet medical journal, Britain has the third-highest proportion of teenagers who are sexually active at an early age and also ranks badly among high-income nations for harmful teenage drinking.

The research, plus a report by UNICEF, calls for more attention to be paid to the changing needs of young people, warning that they are at risk of mental and physical illness, vulnerable to unhealthy product marketing and that too many will die early.

The studies found neglect across the globe, including affluent countries such as Britain and the US. Among 40 countries with broadly comparable data, England had the fourth-highest number of adolescents who had been drunk by the age of 13. Wales came fifth and Scotland eighth. Wales had the third-highest number of 15-year-olds who drank every week, with England fourth and Scotland again eighth.

This generation is unlike those that have gone before, say Professor Susan Sawyer and Professor George Patton from the Murdoch children's research institute and University of Melbourne in Australia. Earlier puberty and later marriage means that 18 is no longer considered the point of transition to adulthood in many societies. The years of experimentation and uncertainty have expanded, and with them, the potential harms of substance and alcohol abuse, and early and unsafe sex. Education and jobs are often inadequate.

And while social media has brought enormous benefits, giving young people a voice and an ability to communicate with each other and circumvent restrictive authority, there are potential harms as well, in the form of cyberbullying, pornography, "sexting" [sending sexually explicit texts], copycat suicides and self-harm and sleep deprivation.

Globally, UNICEF, which published its own report card to coincide with the Lancet series, says millions of under 19s are falling behind and need to be protected from traffic accidents, violence and in the case of teenage girls, early pregnancy and childbirth.

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