Socioeconomic circumstances of young offenders — 2009 young people in custody health survey fact sheet: key findings for all young people

Number of young people surveyed: 361.

Sample: 88% male with an average age of 17 years.

[5-0050] Social determinants

  • 27% of young people had been placed in care before the age of 16 years.

  • 45% have had a parent in prison.

  • 38% were attending school prior to custody.

  • 26% were working in the six months prior to custody.

  • 27% had been bullied and 52% had bullied others.

  • 6% of young people reported being unsettled or having no fixed place of abode (six months prior to custody), with young women representing 18%.

  • More than one-quarter (27%) had moved two or more times in the six months prior to custody, and this was more for Aboriginal young people at nearly a third (32 %).

  • Young women were more likely than young men to have moved four or more times in the six months prior to custody.

  • Aboriginal young people more likely to have moved four or more times in the six months prior to custody.

Mental health

  • 60% had a history of child abuse or trauma.

  • 14% had a possible intellectual disability (IQ 69 and under).

  • 32% scored in the borderline intellectual disability range (IQ 70 to 79).

  • 87% were found to have any psychological disorder, with conduct disorder (59%), substance use (49%), alcohol abuse (44%) or ADHD (30%) the most common.

  • 16% had thought about suicide and 10% had ever attempted suicide.

  • 21% had thought about self-harm and 16% had ever self-harmed.

Offending behaviour

  • 79% had reported previous time in custody.

  • The average age of first time in custody was 14.3 years.

  • On average, young people had previously spent five times in custody.

Physical health

  • 42% were overweight or obese.

  • 18% had a mild to moderate hearing loss.

  • 23% have ever had asthma.

  • 32% have had a head injury resulting in unconsciousness.

  • Poor nutrition is a common risk factor and diet improved while in custody — eating fresh fruit three or more times a week increased from 43% in the community to 90% since in custody; and eating vegetables three or more times a week increased from 57% in community to 77% since in custody.

  • 37% of young people reported currently taking prescribed medications. The most common medication was for mental illness.

  • There was a low prevalence of blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections, with no young people found with HIV, gonorrhoea or syphilis. Four young people were found to have antibodies to Hepatitis C,six6 had Hepatitis B and six had chlamydia.

Smoking, alcohol and drugs

  • 94% had ever smoked cigarettes with a mean age of starting smoking at 12 years.

  • 46% indicated they currently smoked cigarettes or would smoke on release from custody.

  • 93% had ever been drunk with an average age first drunk of 13 years.

  • 66% reported being drunk at least weekly the year prior to custody.

  • 61% of young people identified that their alcohol consumption had caused them problems in the past year (with school, friends, health, police, parents).

  • 78% were found to be risky drinkers.

  • 89% had tried illicit drugs, with cannabis (87%) the most common used, followed by ecstasy (41%), and meth/amphetamines (29%).

  • 65% had used an illicit drug at least weekly in the year prior to custody.

  • 65% reported committing crime to obtain alcohol or drugs.

  • 20% were intoxicated (on alcohol, drugs or both) at the time of their offence.

The report is available on the Juvenile Justice website. Visit: <>