“More and more children are physically and mentally ill” – health insurance companies demand health as a school subject

SAARBRUCKEN. Civilization diseases are also on the rise among young people. From IKK Südwest’s point of view, it is therefore of fundamental importance to create an active awareness of one’s own body and mind at an early stage.

According to studies by the Federal Statistical Office, cardiovascular disease and mental and behavioral disorders account for about a quarter of the total cost of illness in Germany. According to studies by the Saarbrücken-based health insurance company IKK Südwest, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and problems at school and in the family increasingly affect the health of children, young people and adults in Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. IKK Südwest is therefore in favor of systematic and regular health education in schools in the region. The goal must be an early and age-appropriate dissemination of health topics to develop an awareness of one’s own body and mind – and how to keep them healthy, says board member Jörg Loth.

A healthy lifestyle is a matter of course for fewer and fewer children and young people. Photo: Bruno Nascimento / Unsplash.com (bottom left)

Lifestyle-related diseases (so-called lifestyle diseases) are the leading cause of death in Germany and are on the rise, warns health insurance. In order to effectively counter this worrying development, it is fundamentally important to create an active awareness of one’s own health as a whole. In addition to individual responsibility, everyone’s living, environmental and working conditions should also be taken into account. However, the foundation for a healthy life is laid decisively in childhood.

Health education must therefore be anchored more systematically and comprehensively in schools than has hitherto been the case. “Almost 80 percent of the disease burden in Europe is due to diseases that can be largely prevented. The rise in lifestyle-related diseases is becoming more and more uncontrolled, especially in the realities of life for children and young people, but they often know too little about it. This reality needs to be reflected more strongly in the curricula with concrete applicable controls and countermeasures. At present, health problems across all grade levels tend to take place in isolated projects, which are very important but often limited to the subjects of biology or sports. Therefore, they do not contribute enough to the young people’s health in the long run, ”Loth complains.

Boys suffer more physically, girls more mentally
This is especially true of civilization diseases, which can be increasingly prevented, such as obesity and back problems. IKK Südwest points out that in Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse in 2020 compared to 2013, up to 5% more young people would have been diagnosed with morbid obesity (obesity). The increase in obese boys during this period was remarkably strong: according to an analysis, it was about 7% in Rhineland-Palatinate and even about 14% in the Saarland. According to an IKK study, medical diagnoses of back problems in all three federal states have remained at a constant level since 2013. In children, these often begin when they start school.

In addition to the body, the psyche also suffers. More and more young people in the region are mentally and behaviorally disturbed with clinical pictures such as ADHD. From 2013 to 2020, about 7% more similar diagnoses were made in Rhineland-Palatinate, and even about 10% in Hesse and Saarland. Girls were much more affected here, with an increase of up to 18%.

Avoid widespread diseases, relieve the health system financially
Jörg Loth: “The corona pandemic has amplified this effect and made it clear, especially in the case of mental illness, where crucial health competence and prevention are in the school context. What is needed is child-friendly and above all coherent information on important topics such as exercise, “Nutrition and illness, which also includes parents and teachers. It is fundamentally important to create awareness of health and thus body and mind at an early stage. Health should therefore also be discussed as a free school subject that contains current and everyday content.”

Specifically, in addition to physical activity, better consumer competencies, for example on the subject of eating habits and breakfast culture, should be on the curriculum. According to Loth, it also includes teaching skills in the physician-patient relationship and managing current and avoidable clinical pictures.

Prof. Loth adds: “In addition to the main goal of avoiding or at least reducing lifestyle-related diseases, it must be in the state’s interest to create solutions that as such also provide long-term economic relief for the economy and the health system and thus for the contributors.”

After all, another 20 primary schools receive health professionals


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