How does the sexual, physical and mental health of young adults not in education, employment or training (NEET) compare to workers and students?

Clare Tanton*, Lorraine McDonagh, Melissa Cabecinha, Soazig Clifton, Rebecca Geary, Greta Rait, John Saunders, Jackie Cassell, Chris Bonell, Kirstin R. Mitchell, Catherine H. Mercer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Syndemic theory highlights the potential for health problems to interact synergistically, compounding impact. Young adults not in education, employment or training (NEET) are more likely to experience disadvantage and poorer general health outcomes. However, there is little research on their sexual health, or the extent to which this clusters with mental and physical health outcomes. Methods: Analysis of data from 16 to 24 year olds (1729 men, 2140 women) interviewed 2010–12 for Britain’s third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Natsal-3 is a national probability sample survey using computer-assisted personal interviewing with computer-assisted self-interviewing. Participants were classified as workers, students or NEET. We used multivariable logistic regression to examine associations between being NEET (relative to worker or student) and risk behaviours and outcomes in physical, sexual and mental health domains. We then examined how risk behaviours and poor health outcomes cluster within and across domains. Results: 15% men and 20% women were NEET; 36% men and 32% women were workers; and 49% men and 48% women were students. Young people who were NEET were more likely to report smoking and drug use (men) than other young people. There were few differences in sexual health, although NEETs were more likely to report condomless sex, and NEET women, unplanned pregnancy (past year). Risk behaviours clustered more within and across domains for NEET men. Among NEET women, poor health outcomes clustered across mental, physical and sexual health domains. Conclusions: Harmful health behaviours (men) and poor health outcomes (women) clustered more in those who are NEET. This points to a possible syndemic effect of NEET status on general ill health, especially for women. Our paper is novel in highlighting that elevated risk pertains to sexual as well as mental and physical health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number412
Number of pages17
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Natsal-3 was supported by grants from the Medical Research Council (G0701757) and the Wellcome Trust (084840), with contributions from the Economic and Social Research Council and Department of Health. KRM is funded by Medical Research Council Grants MC_UU_12017/11 and Chief Scientist Office Grants SPHSU11. MC and LM were funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Blood Borne and Sexually Transmitted Infections at UCL, , in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), and in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care, or PHE. The funders had no role in the design of the study, the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and in writing the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Clustering
  • Cross-sectional survey
  • Not in education, employment or training (NEET)
  • Sexual health


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