OBJECTIVE: Very few studies specifically have examined the health status of 20-year-olds. The purpose of the present study is to examine the changes in health status and behaviour among young Swiss adults between 1993 and 2003.
METHODS: The present study used data from the Swiss Federal Surveys of Adolescents, conducted in 1993 and 2003 among 20-year-olds in Switzerland. The study sample included military recruits and a representative community cohort. More than 20,000 subjects participated in each survey.
RESULTS: Young adults in 2003 reported fewer traffic- and sports-related accidents, but more work-related and other accidents versus young adults in 1993. A greater percentage of men were overweight or obese in 2003. Also in 2003, a greater percentage of males and females regularly used alcohol, cigarettes and cannabis. In particular, the number that smoked cigarettes daily increased by almost 30% and daily cannabis users increased more than two-fold. Young adults reported higher rates of inter-personal violence and theft in 2003. Compared to 1993, in 2003 young adults were more likely to report a sense of coherence; they also had fewer thoughts of suicide, but a greater sense that life is meaningless.
CONCLUSIONS: Our study provides the first Swiss data comparing the health status of 20-year-olds a decade apart. The findings suggest a significant increase in substance use. Health prevention efforts among young adults ages 18-24 should focus on substance use. In addition, developing strategies to decrease interpersonal violence, delinquent behaviour, and obesity should be a major public health priority.