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CPAG says latest study on teenagers both good and bad news

Prof Asher says the report clearly identifies divisions between the 'haves' and 'have nots' in regards to areas of healthcare and nutrition, and in outlook for future education and training. "Without adequate nutrition, intellectual and physical development is compromised. Young people lacking in energy and stamina are unable to fully participate in all areas of life."

Child Poverty Action Group Health spokesperson Professor Innes Asher says the release of the Health and Wellbeing of New Zealand Secondary School Students report published by The University of Auckland and Auckland UniServices Ltd shows a more cautious generation of teenagers lacking in some basic areas of need.

Prof Asher says the report clearly identifies divisions between the 'haves' and 'have nots' in regards to areas of healthcare and nutrition, and in outlook for future education and training. "Without adequate nutrition, intellectual and physical development is compromised. Young people lacking in energy and stamina are unable to fully participate in all areas of life."

She says it's worrying that young people in low income families have anxiety about the challenges their parents face and appear to be living in surroundings that are less than ideal. The survey showed 69 per cent of youth worried parents did not have enough money for food. Living rooms used as bedrooms was a reality for 22 per cent of survey participants and 10 per cent said the garage was used as a bedroom.

There was some good news. CPAG congratulated the young people of New Zealand for their smart responses to difficult times: the report shows a marked reduction in tobacco, alcohol consumption, binge drinking and illegal drug use as well as lower rates of dangerous driving and small positive shifts in school life. The significant over all reduction in risk-taking behaviours among adolescents is exciting and is cause for optimism.

The stereotypical picture of the cool teenager recoiling in horror having to spend time with parents was debunked. Ninety per cent went on the record as getting on well with at least one of their parents but 50 per cent felt they didn't spend enough time with mum while over 60 per cent said they were missing out on time with dad.

"It's clear families need time together and we need child centred policies that allow parents to be present with their children at such a crucial and important stage of their lives. Policies such as the recent welfare reforms are anti-family, the government needs to pay heed to these young voices."

The report was a reminder that as a society, we need to invest in our young people, to nurture positive, healthy and vibrant generations of New Zealanders. "We can address the poverty of our poorest families. We can't afford not to," says Prof Asher.