A snapshot of Australia's young people shows high rates of obesity and mental illness and vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse.

The report, commissioned by the Federal Government, was written by a team of researchers from the Social Policy Research Centre.

According to The State of Australia's Young People: a report on the social, economic, heath and family lives of young people, one in five teenagers admitted to taking drugs. Binge drinking was also a problem.

"Young people seem to generally feel that taking alcohol is a lot safer, yet they have the highest rates of hospitalisation from alcohol use," lead author, Dr Kristy Muir, told the ABC.

A quarter of all teenagers are overweight or obese and one in four lives with a mental illness, the study found. In addition, one in three sexually active young people report experiencing unwanted sex.

The report was launched by the Minister for Youth, Kate Ellis.

"Most young people are well educated, have close relationships with their families and friends and contribute to society through study, work and volunteering. But the report also shows that there are serious risks to their health, safety and wellbeing," Ms Ellis said.

The full report is at www.youth.gov.au

Media contact: Susi Hamilton | 9385 1583 | susi.hamilton@unsw.edu.au