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Health of rural South Coast adolescents shows distinctions

Health of rural South Coast adolescents shows distinctions

Newly-released results of a health survey suggests some differences between adolescents on the Sunshine Coast and those in the province as a whole.

The McCreary Centre Society’s 2013 BC Adolescent Health Survey (BC AHS) was first released last March. It was conducted in 56 of BC’s 59 school districts, with almost 30,000 students in Grades 7–12 taking part.

Now there are local results for an area that groups the Sunshine Coast with North and West Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler and rural communities on the central coast, an area labeled North Shore/Coast Garibaldi.

Results from this area showed that the majority of Grade 7–12 students reported good physical and mental health; felt connected to their family, school and community; had positive plans for the future; and were engaging in health promoting behaviours which will assist them to transition successfully to adulthood.

The survey also highlights some differences between this region and the province as a whole, as well as identifying some groups of students who may need additional support.

In comparison to youth across the province, North Shore/Coast Garibaldi students reported better nutrition and were more physically active. However, although they were more likely than those throughout the province to have taken part in organized and informal sports on a weekly basis, they were less likely to have done so than students in this area five years ago.

There were also local improvements in the rate of students who had tried alcohol, as the percentage who had ever drunk alcohol decreased from 64% in 2003 to 60% in 2008 to 52% in 2013, although this remained above the provincial rate of 45%.

Declines seen provincially in tobacco and marijuana use were not seen locally. Although as with alcohol, youth were waiting longer to use marijuana than their peers in previous years.

Mental health was an area of concern highlighted by the survey, particularly for girls. Males were more likely than females to report higher rates of self-confidence and lower rates of extreme stress, despair, self-harm, and suicide attempts. Females were more likely than five years ago to have considered or attempted suicide in the past year.

Annie Smith, Executive Director of McCreary commented on the report:

“It’s encouraging to see that many youth in the North Shore/Coast Garibaldi are taking steps to be physically healthy and active. The survey also really shows us where we should be targeting our efforts to make sure students are getting the support they need when they are experiencing bullying or mental health challenges.”

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