Pubdate: Wed, 20 May 2009
Source: Pique Newsmagazine (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Pique Publishing Inc.
Author: Clare Ogilvie
Bookmark: (Youth)


Abuse Rates Still A Concern, According To New Health

Youth are in good health, feeling connected to their families, and are
waiting longer to try smoking, sex and drugs.

These are just some of the findings of the recently released McCreary
Centre Society Adolescent Health Survey (AHS), which was last done in

"Eighty-four per cent feel healthy and good," said Annie Smith,
executive director of the Centre.

"The majority has really high self esteem.

"Injuries are down too so these are all really good

"Risk taking behaviour is also down.

"They are waiting longer to have sex, they are drinking less, they are
smoking less, so I think there are some really positive messages in

The AHS, which was administered by public health nurses, was completed
by over 29,000 Grade 7-12 students across 50 of B.C.'s 59 school
districts. The results have been weighted to represent 200,000 youth.

In all, nurses were in 1,760 classrooms across B.C., including those
in Sea to Sky. Taking the survey was voluntary.

One of the most encouraging findings in the survey was a decrease in
the percentage of youth seriously considering or attempting suicide.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 12-18 in
British Columbia.

It is the first time since the AHS was started in 1992 that the rates
have decreased.

"I think that was the most positive thing to come out of it for me,"
said Smith.

The centre will now start to meet with youth to de-brief the survey
and tease out what may lie behind some of the statistics.

Of concern, and a puzzle too, are the statistics on abuse. The numbers
had been in decline but this survey shows physical abuse rates going
up and sexual abuse staying flat.

This year saw a change in the way the survey was completed. In some
school districts parents had to actively consent to their kids
completing the survey.

When abuse statistics from schools where no parent consent was needed
were compared to the previous survey, so like against like, the rate
of sexual abuse actually went up, said Smith.

"When we looked at those students where we are absolutely certain we
are comparing like with like, sex abuse rates rose," she said.

Also new this year was the question on "Last Saturday Use." Previously
the survey asked about drinking and marijuana use the night before the
student filled it in. Now the survey specifically asks about drinking
and smoking drugs on the Saturday night before the survey.

The survey found that just over one in four  (twenty six per cent) of
B.C. students drank alcohol "last Saturday" and twelve per cent used

It also found that among males and females who drank alcohol last
Saturday, the majority (sixty seven per cent) mixed at least two
different types of alcohol (beer, wine, liquor, coolers) rather than
drinking one type.

The survey also looked at binge drinking, which is defined in the AHS
as having five or more drinks of alcohol within a couple of hours. It
can lead to short and long term social, psychological and physical
problems. Of youth who had tried alcohol, forty four per cent reported
binge drinking in the past month, a rate that has remained consistent
since 1998.

Male and female students were equally likely to binge

"We changed our question because young people were saying, 'I don't
drink during the week but I go wild on the weekend,'" explained Smith
adding that it was a concern to see the youths mixing types of drinks.

The survey also revealed that youth were not using Crystal Meth in the
amounts adults fear, prompting the Province's Health Officer, Dr.
Perry Kendall, to state in the report's introduction: "... Despite an
almost moral panic over methamphetamines taking over the souls of our
children, rates of ever having used dropped from four per cent in 2003
to two per cent in 2008 (a statistically, and surely a socially,
significant difference)."

The survey is a valuable tool in assessing how youth programs are
working and also what areas need to be addressed to create change for
positive behaviours.

It also reinforces the understanding that even the most vulnerable
children if they have one teacher, one mentor, or one adult to talk to
will face an easier and healthier transition to adulthood.

Here are some key findings of the report, which can be found at

- - The majority of youth who were seriously injured were injured
playing or training for sports or recreational activities (fifty five
per cent). Other recreational activities such as snowboarding or
roller blading accounted for most of the remaining injuries, although
five per cent were injured fighting, four per cent were injured in a
motor vehicle accident and four per cent were injured working.

- - Not surprisingly, among students who reported being seriously
injured, they were most commonly injured at a community sports
facility or field (39 per cent), followed by at school (17 per cent)
or at home (15 per cent)

- - For the first time since 1992, the percentage of youth who seriously
considered suicide dropped from 16 per cent to 12 per cent in 2008.
The percentage who actually attempted suicide also decreased from
seven per cent to 5 per cent .

- - 20 per cent of girls and 10 per cent of boys say they have
deliberately self harmed themselves.

- - The AHS showed that building protective factors such as family,
school and cultural connectedness can assist even the most vulnerable
youth to overcome negative experiences, can assist young people to
make healthier choices and can contribute to more positive health
outcomes for all youth in B.C.

- - 84 per cent of students reported their health was good or

- - The number of students who reported a debilitating health condition
or disability dropped to nine per cent from 11 per cent in 2003 and 13
per cent in 1998.

- - More students say they always wear a seatbelt (66 per cent in 2008
vs. 54 per cent in 2003).

- - 18 per cent of females and seven per cent of males said they had not
accessed mental health services when they felt they needed them.

- - 50 per cent of students had less than five daily portions of fruits
and veggies.

- - 25 per cent of males and 11 per cent of females exercise daily;
seven per cent of males and 10 per cent of females don't exercise at

- - Fewer youth smoked cigarettes than in 2003 and those that did waited
longer to start. 74 per cent had never tried a puff, compared to 66
per cent in 2003.

- - Alcohol and marijuana use declined over past decade, as did use of
some drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and mushrooms. Use of other
drugs, including hallucinogens, rose.

- - Pregnancy rates have remained stable at less than two per cent.
However, six per cent reported using withdrawal as their only method
of preventing pregnancy the last time they had sex.

- - More youth reported physical abuse (from 15 per cent in 2003 to 17
per cent in 2008).

- - The percentage of students injured to the point of requiring medical
attention fell to 29 per cent from 39 per cent a decade earlier. 
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D