Teens happier, healthier nowadays

NZPA 08 December 2008

Teenagers are healthier, happier and have better nutrition than their counterparts seven years ago, according to research released today. The findings from the Youth’07, New Zealand’s second national secondary school health and well-being survey, conducted by the Adolescent Health Research Group at the University of Auckland, were compared with the first such survey, conducted in 2001. The survey was done in more than 100 randomly selected secondary schools with a total of nearly 9500 students.

Among the findings:
* In 2007 about three quarters of students said that they were happy with their family relationships.
* More students in 2007 than in 2001 reported feeling connected to school and feeling safe at school.
* Most students (81 per cent) felt safe in their neighbourhood.
* About one-third of students attended a place of worship weekly or more often and 29 per cent report that their spiritual beliefs were very important to them. These percentages had not changed since 2001.
* Students’ emotional wellbeing had improved markedly since 2001. In 2007 92 per cent of students reported being okay or very happy with their lives compared to 86 per cent in 2001. Fewer students in 2007 reported significant depressive symptoms (12.4 per cent in 2001 down to 10.6 per cent in 2007) and fewer students had attempted suicide in the past 12 months (7.8 per cent in 2001 down to 4.7 per cent in 2007).
* About a third of students reported that they had never had sexual intercourse – this was unchanged from 2001.
* Students’ cigarette and marijuana use had declined. Only 8 per cent of students reported smoking cigarettes weekly or more often in 2007 compared to 16 per cent in 2001. The number of students who had used marijuana had also decreased from 39 per cent in 2001 to 27 per cent in 2007.
* Some nutrition and physical activity behaviours improved between 2001 and 2007. More students reported that they always ate breakfast – an increase from 51 per cent in 2001 to 58 per cent in 2007.
* 10-20 per cent of students lived in families facing significant adversity, including food insecurity, due to economic hardship, and were unable to access health care or dental care when they needed it.
* The numbers of students who binge drink remained high – 34 per cent reported binge drinking at least once in the past four weeks.
* Being hit or physically harmed in the last 12 months was reported by 41 per cent of students. Among those who had been hit or physically harmed, approximately one-quarter reported the severity of the violence was pretty bad, really bad or terrible.
* One in five students reported being sent nasty or threatening messages by cell phone or internet, 13 per cent were sent unwanted sexual material, of which 52 per cent was received by cell phone and 44 per cent by the internet.
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LISTEN to Bob McCoskrie discussing the figures on alcohol binge drinking – Radio NZ Morning Report 10 December 08