Young people's perspectives on health-related risks

Grace Elisabeth Spencer


Drawing upon current socio-cultural understandings of risk, this study highlights the disjunction between the expert risk discourses that permeate official public health policy and practice, and young people’s own perspectives on health and risk. Data were collected from young people aged 14-16 years through the use of group and individual interviews in a school and community youth centre setting. Findings from this study question the saliency of expert-defined health-related risks to young people’s everyday lives. Young people in this study saw health as closely linked to ‘being happy’. Friendships and a sense of personal achievement were particularly important to participants’ health and well-being. When accounting for their participation in health-related practices identified as ‘risky’ in government policy – such as smoking, alcohol and substance use – young people emphasised the levels of pressure they experienced. Sources of pressure included arguments and bullying, school work, and negative stereotypes of young people in general. These areas indicated young people’s concerns that reach beyond the official prescriptions permeating current health policy.


Health, risk behaviours, young people, public health policy, research methods

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