Pubdate: Wed, 15 Apr 2009
Source: Vancouver Sun (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 The Vancouver Sun
Author: Pamela Fayerman, Vancouver Sun


But More Report Physical Abuse, B.C. Survey Finds

The overall news is mostly good in the latest survey of nearly 30,000
B.C. youths.

For instance, three-quarters of 12-to-18-year-olds have never tried
even a puff of a cigarette, an improvement from the 66 per cent who
reported they had not tried smoking in 2003, when the McCreary Centre
Society conducted the same Adolescent Health Survey.

"With all the negative stereotyping we see and hear about young people
in our province, it is encouraging to note that smoking, alcohol use
and marijuana use have all declined since the last survey in 2003,"
said Annie Smith, executive director of the society, after the report
was released Tuesday.

"There are promising and positive trends in areas like smoking and
alcohol," she said, referring to the fact that 29 per cent of
13-year-olds said they have drunk alcohol, down from 34 per cent five
years earlier. For 15-year-olds, 58 per cent said they had drunk
alcohol, down from 65 per cent in 2003.

"Clearly, we have to use the public messages or interventions that are
working and apply them to other areas," she added.

The survey indicates that the typical age when kids first try
marijuana is 13 and 14, but the overall number of youth who have tried
marijuana shrank from 37 per cent in 2003 to 30 per cent in 2008.

The survey, which involved public school students answering 147
questions last spring, revealed the majority (84 per cent) believe
they are in good physical or emotional health.

But the results are a mixed bag and some are sure to give parents
fits. For example, while use of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and
amphetamines declined, the number of students who said they had ever
used other drugs, like prescription pills (15 per cent) and
hallucinogens (nine per cent), increased slightly.

And in some areas, parents may be complicit in negative behaviours.
For instance, although there was an increase in the rate of students
who always wore a seatbelt when riding in a vehicle (66 per cent
compared to 54 per cent five years earlier) that still means more than
one-third do not always wear a seatbelt.

Seatbelt use starts out high at age 12 but drops from ages 14 to 16
before it rises again at ages 17 and 18.

And 76 per cent of students don't always wear a helmet while cycling.
While 24 per cent of cyclists do always wear a helmet, that is still a
decrease from the 30 per cent who said they did in 1998, soon after
mandatory helmet laws came into effect.

One of the more curious aspects of the survey was that less than one
per cent of youths said they were mostly gay or lesbian while four per
cent said they weren't yet sure about their sexual orientation. It's
an interesting result because in the sexual behaviour category, eight
per cent of males and 10 per cent of females reported having had
intercourse with a same-sex partner.

Still in the sex category, just over a quarter of all students said
they have had oral sex. At age 12, the rate is three per cent and by
age 18, it rises to 52 per cent.

Pregnancy rates remained stable compared to five years earlier, with
less than two per cent reporting they got pregnant or got someone pregnant.

Although B.C. reportedly has the highest child poverty rate in Canada,
89 per cent of students said they never go to bed hungry, 90 per cent
said they have their own bedroom, and 99 per cent have a computer in
their residence. For the purposes of the survey, poverty indicators
are: going to bed hungry, sharing a bedroom, not owning a computer and
not having a family holiday in the past year.

The percentage of students who said they had been sexually abused
stayed the same as in 2003 -- 13 per cent for females and three per
cent for males. But Smith found it troubling that the rate of youths
who experienced physical abuse had climbed to 17 per cent from 15 per
cent five years earlier.

Asked if the rate may have increased because of growing awareness and
willingness to disclose abuse, she said it is a possibility.

"On the other hand, in some school districts, parents were required to
sign consent forms for students to participate in the survey," she
said, referring to the fact that even though the surveys are
anonymous, children might not be so forthcoming if they know their
parents have consented to their participation.

The Adolescent Health Survey is the largest of its kind in Canada.
This is the fourth time it has been conducted; previous years were
1992, 1998 and 2003.

The McCreary Centre Society is a not-for-profit organization committed
to research and education intended to improve youth health. Funding
for the survey was provided by provincial government sources. Public
health nurses administered the 45-minute survey during school time in
1,760 classrooms at schools that chose to cooperate.

Other survey findings included:

- - Only 25 per cent of males and 11 per cent of females exercise daily.
Ten per cent of girls and seven per cent of boys get no exercise at

- - Twelve per cent of youths seriously considered suicide, while five
per cent actually attempted it. Twenty per cent of girls and 10 per
cent of boys say they have deliberately harmed themselves.

- - Fifty-four per cent of youths report they are of European heritage,
down from 61 per cent five years earlier. Vancouver Coastal Health
region had the most students who said they were born outside of Canada
- -- 33 per cent.

In the same region, the same rate spoke a language other than English
at home most of the time. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake