Regional reports compare adolescent health around B.C.December 1, 2014
The McCreary Centre Society is a non-governmental organization that conducts adolescent health surveys every few years in B.C. schools. The last survey, in 2013, sampled almost 30,000 students in Grades 7-12 in 56 districts (with only Bulkley Valley, Mission and Stikine declining to participate).
Provincial results, released in February, indicated that young people are making healthier choices than previously. But there were concerns about mental health, especially among girls who were more likely than boys to report extreme stress, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
The centre is now preparing and releasing provincial reports that point to differences around the province. Below are a few highlights taken directly from releases about the regional reports posted on the McCreary website.
FRASER EAST (Fraser Cascade, Chilliwack and Abbotsford)
– Students in Fraser East were less likely to have tried alcohol and some other drugs (e.g., hallucinogens and ketamine) than their peers across the province. Locally, 17% of youth drank alcohol on the Saturday before taking the survey. Among these youth, 59% of males and 67% of females engaged in binge drinking.
– The percentage of female students who considered suicide was higher than seen provincially (20% vs. 17%). The percentage who actually attempted suicide was similar (11%).
– Seventeen percent of students (24% of females vs. 8% of males) reported that they had been cyberbullied in the past year. Females in Fraser East were more likely than females across the province to have been cyberbullied (24% vs. 19%).
FRASER SOUTH (Surrey, Delta and Langley)
– Compared to their peers across the province, students in Fraser South were less likely to report ever smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, or using marijuana.
– Sixteen percent of local students reported having a mental health condition (compared to 19% provincially), and 10% of youth (5% of males vs. 15% of females) did not access mental health services when they thought they needed to. The most common reasons for not accessing these services included not wanting their parents to know, and thinking or hoping the problem would go away.
– Rates of ever having oral sex and other types of sex were lower in Fraser South than across the province, and reflected local decreases from 2008. Local youth were as likely as their peers across BC to have used a condom the last time they had sex, but were less likely to have used a condom the last time they had oral sex.
– Students in Fraser South reported higher levels of school connectedness than students across the province. Local students also felt safer in every area of their school in 2013 than in 2008.
NORTHEAST (Peace River and Fort Nelson)
– When compared to the province, local youth reported poorer nutritional intake. For example, fewer youth in the Northeast ate fruit the day before taking the survey (79% ate fruit at least once vs. 86% of youth across BC) and more drank pop or soda (46% vs. 35%)
– In the past year, 33% of male and female students were injured seriously enough to require medical attention. This was above the provincial rate of 27%.
– Sixty-seven percent of students reported having an adult in their neighbourhood or community (beyond their school or family) who cared about them. This was higher than the provincial rate of 61%.
NORTHWEST (Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Coast Mountains and Nisga’a)
– Among Aboriginal youth, 32% spoke an Aboriginal language (which was higher than the provincial rate of 14%).
– Eighty-nine percent of youth reported eating fruit or vegetables on the day before taking the survey, compared to 94% throughout BC. Eating fruit or vegetables three or more times a day was associated with positive mental health among Northwest students.
– Thirty-two percent of youth in the Northwest had ever smoked tobacco, compared to 21% across BC. Among local youth who smoked, 34% had successfully quit in the past year, which was higher than the provincial rate of 23%.
– Northwest students were more likely to be able to identify an adult in their neighbourhood or community who cared about them (69% vs. 61% provincially). Feeling cared about by such an adult was associated with positive mental health.
NORTHERN INTERIOR (Quesnel, Prince George, Nechako Lakes)
– Fifteen percent of local students seriously thought about killing themselves in the past year, which was higher than the provincial rate of 12%. Local females were over twice as likely as males to have seriously thought about suicide, with similar percentages to those in 2008.
– In the past year, 19% of local students experienced a concussion, which was higher than the provincial rate of 16%.
– The percentage of students who were a healthy weight decreased from 2008 to 2013. Females were more likely to be underweight than five years previous, while males were more likely to be obese.
– Richmond’s ethnic and cultural makeup is very different to that of the province as a whole, with half of Richmond students being of East Asian heritage (compared to 18% provincially). Local students are twice as likely as their peers across BC to speak a language other than English at home and to have a parent who works abroad.
– Only 11% of 12–17 year olds exercised for the recommended 60 minutes a day in the past week, compared to 17% provincially. Additionally, students in Richmond were more likely to have not exercised at all in the past week (14% vs. 9% across BC).
– Local students were less likely than those across the province to be sexually active. They were also less likely to have had sex, to report an STI or to have been involved in a pregnancy than their local peers in 2008.
– The decrease in alcohol and marijuana use seen provincially was not seen in Richmond. However, Richmond rates of use remained below those across BC, and local students were waiting longer to try these substances than in 2008.
SOUTH VANCOUVER ISLAND (Victoria, Saanich, Sooke and Gulf Islands)
– In comparison to previous years, local students generally felt safer at school. They also felt safer in every location at school. For example, in 2013 91% felt safe in school washrooms compared to 68% in 2008.
– Unlike the provincial picture where some forms of bullying increased, there was no such rise locally, and there was a local decrease in the percentage of students who had been physically assaulted (from 10% in 2008 to 8%). Although the percentage of males who were cyber bullied remained constant (9%), the percentage of female students who were bullied online decreased from 25% in 2008 to 16%.
– There were decreases in the percentages of students reporting that they had been physically abused but no such improvements in sexual abuse rates.
THOMPSON CARIBOO SHUSWAP
– In comparison to previous years, local students generally felt safer at school . . . (But) despite these improvements in school safety, there was an increase in the rate of female students experiencing bullying through teasing and social exclusion compared to 2008. Additionally, females in Thompson Cariboo Shuswap were more likely than females across the province to be cyberbullied (25% vs. 19%).
– Compared to the provincial picture, youth in this area were more likely to be engaged in physical activity and exercise, including weekly informal sports (such as road hockey, hiking and skateboarding; 63% vs. 58% provincially)
– Sixty-eight percent of students (65% of males vs. 72% of females) in this region reported having an adult in their neighbourhood or community (beyond their school or family) who cared about them. This was higher than the provincial rate of 61% (59% of males vs. 63% of females).
– Students in Vancouver were more likely than their peers across the province to have been born outside of Canada (29% vs. 19%), although fewer local students were born abroad than a decade earlier (40%).
– Local students were less likely to have ever had sexual intercourse than students a decade earlier (12% vs. 15% in 2003), and were less likely than their peers across BC to have ever had sex (19% provincially). Also, those who did have sex were waiting longer to do so than a decade earlier.
– Compared to youth across BC, local students were less likely to have used tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana. Also, local rates of using these substances were lower in 2013 than in 2003, and students who did use these substances were waiting until they were older to first try them.
I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and do not speak for the organization.