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UK's 'troubled families' plagued with physical and mental health problems

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UK's 'troubled families' plagued with physical and mental health problems

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Health and also in Central Government, Communities

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The UK's families identified as 'troubled' are beset by a range of mental and physical health problems, the government has warned.

The coalition has identified 120,000 'troubled families' whose lives it plans to turnaround by 2015.

Though the families were not selected for the programme based on health-related problems, the government has subsequently found that:

  • 71% include someone with at least one health problem.
  • 46% include an adult with a mental health problem.
  • 32% include an adult with a long-standing illness or disability.
  • 20% include a child or children with a long-standing illness or disability.

Published in July, the government's Understanding Troubled Families report highlighted that families targeted by the programme have on average nine different problems, related to employment, education, crime, housing, child protection, parenting or health.

The government has now warned that the wide range of other problems in 'troubled family' households means that treating health problems only as a medical problem without addressing other aspects of an individual’s or a family’s problems is "unlikely to be successful".

According to the report, Britain's 'troubled families' have disproportionately high levels of health problems compared to the general population.

Research conducted in Salford found that:

  • 53% of troubled families in the area had a current record of obesity, rising to 93% between the ages of 35 and 54. By comparison around a quarter of people in England were obese in 2012.
  • 14% of the families include at least one adult dependent on alcohol and 13% dependent on drugs. A national estimate held that around 4% of people in England are alcohol dependent. In this troubled families sample, 4% of families were receiving treatment for alcohol dependency, a reflection of very severe alcohol problems.
  • The level of smoking among troubled families was twice the Salford average.
  • 5% of the families included an under 18-year-old who was pregnant. While there are no comparable national statistics at family level, the under 18 conception rate in England and Wales in 2012 was 27.9 conceptions per 1,000 women aged 15-17.
  • Although the over 50s accounted for only 8% of the families' members, over 90% were obese, 24% had cardiovascular disease, 53% had a long term medical condition and 25% had multiple long term conditions.

The government has also identified the following apparent links in 'troubled families':

  • Having a child with a mental health problem is associated with there being domestic violence within a household. 36% had a domestic violence problem compared to 24% without a child with a mental health problem.
  • Having an adult with a mental health problem is associated with there being a child with a mental health problem in the family. 45% had one or more children with a mental health problem compared to 21% with no adult with a mental health problem.
  • Having an adult in the household with a long-standing illness/disability is associated with a child with school attendance problems. 64% had one or more truanting children compared to 56% without a disabled adult.

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