Wellesley stress levels high, mental health a concern, according to Adolescent Health Survey

558435_356762741033032_411781574_nResults from the 2014 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey (MWAHS), administered to over 2,000 middle school and high school students in Wellesley, as well as students in other local communities (we’ve attached PDFs of the Wellesley results further down in this post). This most current MWAHS marks a decade of data collection in Wellesley and the region, the goal being improved student health and wellness.

Survey results for Middle School students were presented at a School Committee meeting last week by Fitness and Health Director Joanne Grant. The survey asks kids all the tough questions about their experiences related to physical fighting, school bullying, cyberbullying, mental health issues, sexual behaviors (only high school students were asked about that), physical activity and nutrition, school attachment and adult support, risk behaviors on school property, and substance abuse or use. It attempts to give administrators, parents, and other community stakeholders a view into what issues kids, as a whole, are dealing with in their everyday lives.

The summary is that Wellesley is making progress on the middle school front in areas such as cigarette smoking, physical fighting, and school bullying, but has work to do on the stress and mental health front, particularly among girls.

See below for a few data points about Wellesley Middle School students that were covered at the School Committee meeting:

*8% of 8th graders say that they’ve used alcohol one or more times in the 30 days before the survey was conducted, and it is likely that they got it at a party they attended (unless the 8% of 8th graders who said they attended a party where alcohol was available is a different group of kids entirely).

*Kids across all the grades reported that their life had been very stressful over the 30 days before the survey, with 3% of 6th graders, 11% of 7th graders, and 20% of 8th graders saying so. That’s a steady increase since 2006, when 9% of Wellesley middle schoolers reported high levels of stress. The numbers are distressingly high for students who have considered or who have actually harmed themselves — 9% of 8th graders say that they have self-injured in the past 12 months, while 13% of them have seriously considered suicide in their lives, and 2% have attempted suicide.

*Generally speaking, when kids stay out of school in Wellesley it is because they are sick that day (about 37%) or they are too tired (about 11%).

*Students who report being bullied, defined as when one or more students tease, threaten, spread rumors about, hit, shove, or hurt another student over and over again, seems to have hit its peak in 2008 at about 50%, and currently stands at around 25%.

*An area that has received the highest points across the board (in a good way) has consistently been School Attachment. In the 2014 survey, they reported feeling close to people at school (79%); feel like they are a part of the school (81%); are happy to be at their school (74%); feel that teachers treat students fairly (72%); and feel safe at school (87%).

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Wellesley High School key indicators show that cigarette smoking has been cut nearly in half since 2006, and that alcohol use is also down. Cyberbullying since 2006 has gone up, as you might expect given the proliferation since then of cell phones, and stress levels have been steady and high since 2006 — (35% of students reported life being very stressful over the 30 days before the survey was conducted). Also of concern on the mental health front, over the 12 months before the survey, 19% of students reported having had depressive symptoms; 12% said they had self-injured; 12% had considered suicide, and 2.9% attempted suicide.

*15% of WHS students reported having sexual intercourse in their lifetime, with 12% of them describing themselves as currently sexually active (in the last three months), while 77% of them reported condom use at last sexual intercourse (among currently sexually active youth).

Scroll down the following PDF to get more details on WHS results.

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