General health awareness in the 15-29 age bracket has risen – but obesity and lack of exercise are increasing.

SJS – 03/2019

EU Youth Strategy

Young people play a pivotal role in the future development of the EU and its Member States. The new European Union Youth Strategy forms the basis for European cooperation in the field of youth, and runs for the period 2019-2027. The aim of the strategy is to provide support in eight areas of action including ‘health and well-being’, ‘social inclusion and participation’ and ‘employment and entrepreneurship’. The strategy is based on a Council Resolution of 26 November 2018.

The EU Youth Strategy revolves around three key areas – ‘Engage. Connect. Empower’ – which were broken down into 11 European Youth Goals, identified in dialogue with young people from across the EU. These goals include ‘equality of all genders’, ‘inclusive societies’ and ‘improving mental health and wellbeing’.


The growing focus on social aspects in the European Union has its origins in the financial crisis and the subsequent slowdown in economic growth. The need to initiate programmes for young people is due in no small part to the fact that young people aged between 15 and 29 years account for more than a quarter (17.2%) of the total population of Europe.

Current situation for young people in Europe

In February this year, the European Parliamentary Research Service published a report on youth empowerment. The report describes the current state of play for young Europeans and proposes actions to be taken for the European Parliament.  


Youth employment initiatives and programmes, Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps are all expected to further improve education levels and reduce already declining youth unemployment rates. Nevertheless, of the 88 million young people in Europe, around a third are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which is disproportionate to other sections of the population.


It is encouraging to see that there has been a general increase in health awareness in this age group with fewer young people drinking and smoking. However, obesity due to poor eating habits and lack of physical activity is still a problem. The risk of mental illness remains, with 5% of young people showing moderate to severe symptoms of depression.


The report also describes future challenges for European youth policy. These include reaching a wider spectrum of young people, particularly those from disadvantaged and difficult-to-reach groups. To address these challenges, the EU wants to provide a financial framework for funding support programmes aimed at young people.


Due to the fact that the European Youth Strategy covers several policy areas, EU action is based on both the EU Treaties and EU laws for each of the policy areas. The legal basis and funding programmes make it possible for the Member States to engage in joint policy initiatives at EU level and thus create an opportunity to make a better future for young people and Europe as a whole.