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Nationwide unique study: New data from the RKI on young people’s health and health-related behaviour

Press Release by Robert Koch Institute

How many young people smoke and how many continue to do so into young adulthood? How many overweight children are still overweight more than ten years later? What developments occur in mental health problems among children and adolescents over the life course?

The new results from the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents (KiGGS) provide answers to these questions for the first time, using data from examinations and interviews that were conducted with participants who already took part in the first KiGGS study (baseline study) completed in 2006. Longitudinal data such as these can be used to analyse the causes of diseases, but also to study risk and protective factors. The KiGGS study also provides new data about the current health status and health-related behaviour of young people and on trends since the KiGGS baseline study. The latest KiGGS study was conducted between 2014 and 2017. Lothar H. Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute, emphasises that, ‘The KiGGS data provide an important basis for evidence-based measures aimed at improving the health of the population’.

The first results from selected fields are to be published in the latest issue of the Journal of Health Monitoring and presented at a symposium on 15 March 2018. Wieler points out that, ‘Above all, the new longitudinal data will enable analyses of the question as to when the foundations are laid for future physical and mental health.’ For example, the KiGGS data show that more than half of the children aged between 2 and 6 with overweight or obesity continue to have these conditions as adolescents, and, therefore, that early prevention measures are required. The RKI researchers also present analyses of mental health problems over the life course, developments in smoking behaviour during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, and allergic sensitisation, which is associated with a higher risk of allergies.

In addition to trend analyses, the RKI researchers also present (cross-sectional) data, and trends on general health, overweight and obesity, physical activity, the consumption of sugary soft drinks; allergic rhinitis and asthma, smoking behaviour, and smoking during pregnancy.

The symposium will also focus on the continuation of the KiGGS surveys, in particular, the KiGGS cohort. Dr Bärbel-Maria Kurth, head of the Department of Epidemiology and Health Monitoring, maintains that, ‘In our view, and from the perspective of public health, this part of the study is particularly important and valuable; in fact, in its current form, it is even unique on the international level.’

KiGGS is the only wide-ranging study conducted on the health of children and adolescents in Germany. The KiGGS baseline study was undertaken from 2003 to 2006 when 17,641 children and adolescents aged between 0 and 17 were examined in 167 locations and interviewed together with their parents. The latest study was also conducted at 167 sample points, this time between 2014 and 2017, and included 10,853 participants from the first study alongside a new sample of 15,023 young people aged between 0 and 17.

Further information is available in issue 1/2018 of the Journal of Health Monitoring at www.rki.de/johm-en and in a short, printed brochure containing selected results (in German only) that can be ordered from gbe@rki.de. Press pictures are available at www.rki.de/kiggs-pressefotos. For TV footage, please contact the RKI press office (Presse@rki.de).

Date: 15.03.2018