Youth say they are inundated with information constantly; feel money pressures just like everyone else
Roughly 70 per cent of New Brunswick youth rate their mental health as being very good or excellent.
That leaves 28.2 per cent of New Brunswick youth ages 10-19 (roughly 23,000 youth) saying their mental health isn't so great.
The New Brunswick Health Council released its 2010 Young New Brunswickers Provincial Health Snapshot yesterday, looking at the health status of the province's youth and the four major health determinants - health care, behavioural factors, socioeconomic factors and physical and social environmental factors.
And there's good news and bad. In addition to the mental health numbers, three out of five youth are not eating breakfast daily and three out of five are not active enough physically and spend too much time doing sedentary activities.
However, over 95 per cent of New Brunswick youth say they have access to a regular doctor and almost 97 per cent say they are happy or very satisfied with life.
And while not all New Brunswick youth rated their mental health high, 87 per cent said they had a medium to high level of mental fitness (described as having a positive sense of how you feel, think and act).
Asked what could be causing mental distress for youth, Thalia Leonard, 18, says teens are feeling more responsibilities dumped onto them.
The Grade 12 Moncton High student says more teens are being pressured to take on part-time jobs on top of going to school. There is also pressure to aim for high-paying careers such as medicine or law, particularly at a time when the global economy is suffering.
"I definitely think that money has been a huge concern for (youth)," Leonard says.
Bullying or parents divorcing could also be leading to distress, she says.
Leonard laughs when asked about technology, but then admits that youth are indeed inundated with information constantly - via the Internet, social networking, cell phones and television.
"We have so much access to everything now," she says. "Something can happen and everyone will know within the next hour or so because of text messaging and Facebook."
For that reason, she says there is also stress over keeping one's personal life private.
While she runs half-marathons and aims to eat well, Leonard isn't surprised to hear that youth don't seem to be getting enough exercise and they aren't eating well. She says in today's fast-paced society, youth rely on cheap, quick meals rather than making home-cooked food. And not taking the time to relax and have a healthy meal can also add to mental stress, she says.
Chelsea McFadden, 18, a first-year student at NBCC Moncton, studying culinary arts, says she gets stressed out easily trying to balance school, home and social life. She, like Leonard, says today's fast-paced world is difficult to manage.
"I've been trying to spend less time focused on the electronics I have and more going out and doing stuff," she says, adding that she hopes she's not alone.
McFadden also points out that a lot of youth feel pressure to make post-secondary plans when they might not necessarily be ready to make those decisions.
One of the more positive aspects of the youth health snapshot shows that three-quarters of youth reported that their teachers showed a positive attitude towards healthy living, and two-thirds noticed healthier food choices being offered at school.
Stéphane Robichaud, CEO of NBHC, says this snapshot aims to show all of New Brunswick how its youth is doing and where improvements need to be made.
"If we can be successful in improving these areas, we know that as you grow older, you're better equipped to be healthy," he says. "Obesity is an example. If we develop more healthy eating and activity habits, there's more chances that that will be maintained in adulthood."
Within the snapshot, there are disparities between boys and girls comparing health outcomes: injuries, mental health issues and unhealthy weight (obese or overweight) trend higher for boys than girls. Boys also display more oppositional behaviours, like being defiant or disrespectful, and they are more likely to be bullied.
Minister of Wellness, Culture and Sport Trevor Holder said he was concerned with the statistics in the report.
"The thing that stands out the most to me is that 70 per cent of our children believe they have good mental health," he said. "So that means 30 per cent of our youth don't believe they do and as a father that really concerns me."
Holder said he has asked staff at his department to research possible factors that could lead to poor mental health.
"We are taking this all very seriously," he added.
Gabriela Tymowski, a kinesiology professor at the University of New Brunswick, expressed concern with the source of the data used in the report.
"This relies on self-reported data, which is really quite misleading," she said. "It gives us an unrealistic picture, especially with regards to overweight and obesity. Research has shown over and over if you ask people how much they weigh, the self reported data will grossly understate the reality."
* With files from Canadaeast News Service.
Following is a portion of the 2010 Young New Brunswickers Provincial Health Snapshot, released this week by the New Brunswick Health Council.
N.B. Moncton/ Miramichi average south-east area
Youth that see their health as being very good or excellent: 67% 64.8% 73.6%
Youth that see their mental health as very good or excellent: 71.8% 72.5% 86.4%
Youth that are satisfied or very satisfied with life: 96.8% 94.7% 100%
Youths with unhealthy weight: 23% 20% 30%
Youths that have a regular medical doctor: 95.7% 100% 92.6%
Eat 5 or more fruits/vegetables a day: 24% 28% 19%
Do at least 90 min./day of moderate/hard physical activity: 40% 39% 44%
Have never tried smoking: 60% 69% 48%
* The entire report is available online at www.nbhc.ca
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