Students aren’t getting enough sleep and could be making healthier food and lifestyle choices, according to Prairie Mountain Health’s 2012-13 Manitoba Youth Health Survey.
The survey, completed by Manitoba students in grades 7-12 during the 2012-13 school year, provides a snapshot of students’ healthy or not so healthy behaviours. More than 8,000 students in school divisions across the province participated, including 11 Westman school divisions.
PMH made the survey results public on Monday.
Only 26 per cent of students said they are getting nine or more hours of sleep on school nights, while 45 per cent of female and 60 per cent of male students considered themselves to be physically active.
Too much time spent in front of a television or computer screen could be why some students aren’t getting enough exercise, PMH regional manager of planning and evaluation Jody Allan said.
“We found that it would be really helpful if there was a way to reduce the amount of time that kids spend in front of a TV or computer outside of school,” Allan said. “Almost half the kids spend more than two hours a day in front of a screen and that increased to 61 per cent on weekends.”
The first Manitoba Youth Health Survey was completed by Manitoba students in grades 6-12 in 2008. While the two surveys have similarities, the current survey includes more expanded questions about bullying and personal threats, sun safety, injury prevention and safety as well as healthy sexuality.
“Some school divisions opted to offer that in some of their classes and some didn’t,” Allan said.
In hopes that students answer as accurately and as honestly as possible, identities are kept confidential. But some school divisions use student codes so that they can link certain information and results for future use.
“So even though they use student codes, there’s no way for anyone to ever identify what any student said, that’s totally kept confidential,” Allan said.
The health survey questioned students about tobacco, alcohol as well as marijuana and other drug usage.
When it came to tobacco, 13 per cent of female and 15 per cent of male youth said they were current daily or occasional smokers. Meanwhile, six per cent of students reported using smokeless tobacco in the past month and 46 per cent of students reported wanting to quit using tobacco.
Regarding alcohol consumption, 31 per cent of students said they have consumed at least one alcoholic beverage in the past month, 25 per cent consumed five or more drinks in a couple of hours on at least one day in the past month and 16 per cent of students admitted to using an illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drug for the purpose of getting high.
Survey results have already been distributed to all participating school divisions. Allan said she hopes schools will use the results to further partnerships with local health organizations and parent groups as well as help schools make positive changes.
One area of the survey worth celebrating, Allan said, was how students feel about their school and community.
“Kids tend to be really well connected to our schools and communities in our area,” she said.
When asked about school and community connectedness, 81 per cent of students said they feel close to people at their school, 86 per cent said they feel they’re part of their school and 82 per cent said they are happy to be at their school.
When it came to safety, 90 per cent of students said they feel safe at their school, 92 per cent said they feel safe in their community and 98 per cent feel safe at home.
The survey is part of Manitoba’s Healthy Schools initiative in partnership with Manitoba Healthy Living, seniors and consumer affairs, Manitoba Education and Healthy Child Manitoba. Survey results will assist both health and education departments during future planning and policy development, Allan said.
A complete version of the 2012-13 Manitoba Youth Health Survey can be viewed online on the Prairie Mountain Health website, prairiemountainhealth.ca.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 10, 2013