A recent health survey of adolescents in the East Kootenay has found that there is reason to be positive, but also areas of concern.
One of the positives is that East Kootenay youth are far outpacing their peers across the province in terms of physical activity.
The study, published by the McCreary Centre Society, included all three East Kootenay school districts (Southeast Kootenay, Rocky Mountain and Kootenay Lake), surveying students in grades 7 through 12.
The study found that EK youth are becoming increasingly diverse.The percentage of youth of European heritage decreased, while those of East Asian descent increased. Also, there was an increase in the percentage of students born outside of Canada (12 per cent vs. 8 per cent in 2013 and 4 per cent in 2008).
Results showed that East Kootenay youth remain more physically active than youth across the province, including 24 per cent who participated in extreme sports on a weekly basis, compared to 9 per cent across B.C. Also, local youth were more likely than their peers across the province to have met Canadian physical activity recommendations. 61 per cent participated weekly in informal sports (vs. 52 per cent across BC).
Two areas of concern are mental health and vaping rates.
The study found that 29 per cent of students had vaped with nicotine in the past month and 25 per cent had vaped without nicotine.
As far as mental health is concerned the study found that 25 per cent of the youth surveyed had seriously considered suicide at some point and almost one in five who needed mental health services did not receive them.
“This is obviously worrying,” said McCreary’s Executive Director, Annie Smith.
“The local results for East Kootenay also confirm what we see across the province in that youth who have supportive adults in their family, school and community report more positive mental health and are less likely to engage in risky substance use, and that gives us some clear direction as to how we can support young people growing up here.”
Other key findings include:
Around a third (32%) of local youth had at least one health condition or disability. This was a local increase from 28% in 2013. More than 4 in 10 (42%) reported that their condition prevented them from doing things their peers could do.
Reflecting the provincial picture, there was an increase in local youth with a mental health condition. For example, 25% reported they had Anxiety Disorder/panic attacks, compared to 9% in 2013.
Just over half (52%) of students got eight or more hours of sleep on the night before taking the survey, and 42% went offline after their expected bedtime (e.g., turned off their phone or put it in silent mode).
Youth in East Kootenay were more likely than their peers across the province to have suffered a concussion in the past year (17% vs. 13%). However, only around half (52%) of these youth received medical treatment for their concussion.
Local students were more likely than their peers across BC to have lost someone close to them as a result of an accident (19% vs. 13%) and suicide (14% vs. 9%). Also, 25% had a family member or close friend who had attempted or died by suicide in the past year (compared to 20% provincially).
Seven percent of East Kootenay students with a phone had used it on their most recent school day to engage in sexting (a decrease from 15% in 2013), and 9% used their device to watch pornography.
Similar to results in 2013, 57% of students had tried alcohol, 33% had used marijuana, and 23% had tried a substance other than alcohol or marijuana.
Vaping was the most commonly used smoking product. In the past month, 29% of local youth had vaped with nicotine and 25% had vaped without nicotine.
Among students who drank alcohol on the Saturday before taking the survey, 70% engaged in binge drinking, which was a decrease from 79% in 2013.
In the past year, 45% of students had been verbally sexually harassed, and 25% had been physically sexually harassed. This represented an increase for males and females in physical sexual harassment, and an increase for females in verbal sexual harassment from 51% in 2013 to 58% in 2018.
Students in East Kootenay were more likely than their peers across BC to feel quite or very connected to their community, and were more likely than local youth in 2013 to feel this way (47% vs. 42%).
Most East Kootenay youth (75%) felt there was an adult in their neighbourhood or community (outside their family or school) who really cared about them. This reflected a local increase from 69% in 2013 and was above the provincial rate of 65%.
Overall, 68% of East Kootenay students felt safe at school (vs. 73% across BC).
Locally, the rate was lower than five years earlier (74% in 2013), and comparable to a decade ago. Males were the most likely to feel safe at school and non-binary youth were the least likely to feel safe.
Around 7 in 10 local youth (69%) felt the activities they engaged in were quite or very meaningful to them. These youth were more likely to report positive mental health, to feel an adult in their community cared about them, and to feel connected to their community.
Most East Kootenay youth could identify something they were really good at, felt good about themselves, reported satisfaction with their life, and were hopeful for their future.
The most common topic East Kootenay youth identified wanting to learn more about was mental health.
The McCreary Centre Society is a non-government, non-profit organization committed to improving the health of BC youth through research, evaluation and community-based projects.