Chicago Adults Identify the Top 10 Health Problems Facing Chicago Youth 2018-2019

Last year, the first Voices of Child Health in Chicago report covered the “Top 10” health problems facing Chicago youth as identified by Chicago adults. This year, we asked adults across the city about this topic again, enabling us to explore trends in attitudes about child and adolescent health issues over time. For instance, many of the Top 10 health problems remained the same from 2017-18 to 2018-19, but there were some changes.

Researchers at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital teamed up with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) on the 2018-19 Healthy Chicago Survey, Jr. to ask adults from all 77 community areas in Chicago which health problems they considered to be “big problems” for children and adolescents in Chicago.

Report Highlights

  • Stress, drug abuse, and depression were the top health problems facing Chicago youth identified by Chicago adults in 2018-19.
  • Issues related to mental health were considered “big problems” by Chicago adults again this year, with stress moving to number one on the list up from number four last year.
  • More respondents considered smoking and tobacco a "big problem" this year (57%), up from 53% last year.

Download the Report PDF

Information You Can Use

1. Stress - 61%

Stress was the top youth health concern identified by Chicago adults. Stress moved up several spots on the Top 10 list from last year, when it was ranked fourth.

The American Psychological Association provides tips for how teens can keep stress in check.


2. Drug Abuse - 61%

Drug abuse was the second most common concern about child and adolescent health in Chicago. Among parents with children under 18 years old in the household, 64% considered drug abuse a big problem facing Chicago youth.

Local and national helplines are available for individuals who may have a substance use disorder – in Illinois (1-833-2-FIND-HELP) and across the U.S. (1-800-662-HELP).


3. Depression - 59%

The third most commonly identified big health problem for kids in the city was depression. Among parents, younger parents were more likely to consider depression a big problem than older parents.

4. Childhood Obesity - 58% 

In Chicago in 2018, 32% of 8th graders were overweight or obese, along with 28% of 10th graders, and 33% of 12th graders.

The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC) at Lurie Children’s works to confront the childhood obesity epidemic by promoting healthy and active lifestyles for children throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.

5. Smoking and Tobacco - 57%

The fifth most common health problem was smoking and tobacco, including e-cigarettes. Chicago adults were more concerned about this issue this year compared to last year, when only 53% of adults considered it a big problem. This may reflect an increasing concern about vaping and e-cigarettes, which recently has been linked to cases of severe lung disease and death.

You can learn more about quitting smoking at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (, which has a texting program to help people quit smoking. 


6. Child Abuse and Neglect - 56%

Child abuse and neglect was sixth on the list, with over half of adults considering this a big problem for child and adolescent health in Chicago. Parents with children in the household were more likely to consider this a big problem (60%) than adults without children in the household (54%).

Child abuse and neglect helplines are available for individuals in Illinois (1-800-25-ABUSE) and outside of Illinois (1-800-4-A-CHILD). You can also learn more about child abuse and neglect from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

7. Suicide - 49%

Suicide among children and teens was another major health concern for Chicago adults. Parents of at least one older child (11+ years old) were more likely to be concerned about this issue (60%) than parents of only young children (0-5 years old; 46%).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support for individuals dealing with suicide or suicidal thoughts over the phone (1-800-273-TALK) or online ( and the Crisis Text Line serves anyone in any type of crisis (text HOME to 741741).

8. Alcohol Abuse - 49%

The eighth most common big health problem for kids in Chicago identified by adults was alcohol abuse. In 2018, 39% of Chicago 8th graders, 42% of 10th graders, and 51% of 12th graders reported using alcohol in the past year. Approximately half of students in each grade reported that their parents had talked to them about not using alcohol, and between 74-81% of students in each grade said their parents had clear rules about alcohol and drug use.

The Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a national helpline for individuals and family members facing substance use disorders and mental health issues (1-800-662-HELP).

Preventing Alcohol Abuse in Chicago (PAACT) is a multi-agency coalition convened by Lurie Children’s aimed at preventing alcohol abuse among 8th-12th graders in Chicago. PAACT’s I got this! campaign provides tips for parents about talking with teens about drinking.

9. Parents' Health Problems Affecting Children's Health - 47%

Parents’ health problems affecting children’s health was another major concern. Adults who reported being in worse health themselves were more likely to consider this a big problem (50%) than adults who reported being in better health (43%).

10. Teen Pregnancy - 44%

The tenth most common concern that Chicago adults identified for youth in Chicago was teen pregnancy. Among parents with at least one older child (11+ years old), 57% considered this a big problem.

CDPH and CPS have partnered to create the Chicago Healthy Adolescents and Teens (CHAT) Program, with Planned Parenthood of Illinois as its medical provider partner. The CHAT Program serves adolescents aged 13-24, and offers online educational resources, in-person sexual health education, testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and linkage to other health care services, including STI treatment and family planning.

Juno4Me is a Chicagoland initiative connecting anyone 13 and older to inclusive, culturally sensitive, evidence-based family planning providers. It provides hassle-free, long term reversible birth control (such as IUDs and birth control implants).

ConnecTeen is a program at Lurie Children’s that supports pregnant and parenting youth in Chicago by connecting them to an evidence-based home visiting program in their community area.