The move into high school is a tough one for local youth.
A new report on the health of young people in Simcoe-Muskoka shows that 1 in 4 students in high school feel they have fair to poor mental health, almost double the rate in Grades 7 and 8.
While the teen years are filled with challenges that are creating health risks, the report shows that students also feel strongly connected to their schools, which can help self-esteem and provide support for positive connections in their lives.
Youth Health in Simcoe Muskoka draws on local statistics on students from Grades 7 to 12, compiled from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) in 2015.
“This is the first time we have been able to get a comprehensive picture of local youth health,” said Dr. Lisa Simon, Associate Medical Officer of Health with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. “We know that the adolescent years are tough ones, but there are some situations here that are particularly striking, and pose a long-term risk to their health.”
Physical activity rates are low and drop significantly once students get into high school. During school nights, barely a third of high school students are getting the required eight hours of sleep.
When it comes to alcohol and drug use, the older students get the more likely they are to have tried marijuana or other drugs. Three-quarters of students in Grades 11 and 12 have consumed alcohol.
Tobacco use takes a major jump as well. While 7% of students in Grades 9 and 10 reported smoking cigarettes in the previous year, by Grades 11 and 12, it had risen to 18%.
While the picture that emerges seems bleak, the health unit has been working with school boards to develop initiatives and programs that encourage students to take leadership positions in their school and their community. The health unit is also building on current collaborations with parents, school staff and community partners to make a difference in the health of youth.
A series of infographics that simplify the report’s statistics can be found on the health unit’s website at www.smdhu.org/YouthReport. Links are also provided to the full report.
Other information can also be obtained by calling Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.