Investing in the Health and Well-Being of Young Adults

IOM and NRC report examines what is known about the health, safety, and well-being of young adults and offers recommendations for policy and research.


The Issue:
In recent decades, the demands placed on young adults (ages 18 to 26) have increased. Yet, young adulthood is a critical time in life, and the success of young adults impacts the future well-being of the nation. They are key contributors to the nation's workforce and military services, and as parents, to the healthy development and well-being of the next generation. However, young adults are rarely treated as a distinct population in policy, program design, and research and are often grouped with adolescents or, more often, with all adults.

Key Findings

  • Young adulthood is a critical developmental period, where individuals face challenges and assume new responsibility. 

  • A more global, networked world places greater demands on young adults.

  • There are less predictable pathways for young adults to follow as compared to previous generations.

  • Young adult health is declining. This dominant pattern of declining health is most clearly seen in health behaviors.

The Committee offers a cross-cutting recommendation that applies to all policies and programs addressing young adults, whether public or private, in all sectors of society. Subsequent recommendations focus on the key domains of education and employment, civic engagement and national services, public health, health care systems, and government investments in marginalized young adults.   

About the Study:
Prepared by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC), on behalf of the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Department of Defense this report reviews and summarizes what is known about the health, safety, and well-being of young adults and offer recommendation for policy and research.

This report's findings are intended to assist the federal, state, and local policymakers and program leaders, as well as employers, nonprofit organizations, and other community partners, in developing and enhancing policies and programs to improve young adults' health, safety, and well-being.