Young adults today aren't any healthier than 10 to 15 years ago, and in some cases — obesity, for one — they are significantly less so, says a federal report on the nation's health released Wednesday.

The annual report, from the National Center for Health Statistics, is based on the most recent data available from a variety of health sources. It covers health issues across ages and includes for the first time a section on 50 million young adults ages 18-29, a group that is "understudied," says lead author Amy Bernstein.

The data show that:

• About one-third are obese, and one-third are overweight.
• About 30% do not have health insurance.
• Among men, almost one-third smoke cigarettes and a quarter binge-drink (five or more drinks on at least 12 days in the past year).

"Saying they're all basically healthy now doesn't take into account ... the long-term effects of health habits formed during this time," she says.

Obesity has tripled in three decades, to 24% in 2005-06. Smoking among women declined nearly 20% from 1997 to 2006, but no significant decline was reported among men.

Findings are similar to those in the annual Monitoring the Future survey by the University of Michigan, says co-principal investigator John Schulenberg. "Any gains we've been getting over the years with better adolescent health, we're not realizing in the 18-29 group."

Schulenberg suggests many behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, may be low in high school but pick up after young people leave home.

Bernstein says bad health behaviors haven't seemed to slow among that age group.

"They're still smoking, still drinking, still taking illicit drugs and not exercising," she says. "Whatever we're doing, we're not getting through to this particular age group."
News release provided by USA Today (www.USAtoday.com).

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