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Canadian youth measured on international health behaviour report


A new international report on health behaviours in school-aged children shows that Canadian youth have higher than average overweight and obesity rates, yet lower daily soft-drink consumption. And while daily smoking rates for Canadian 15-year-olds are among the lowest in the countries studied, the same group ranks at the top for cannabis use.

The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) report describes what school-aged children in 41 countries and regions are doing related to the behaviors that most affect their health. It also shows the prevalence of risk behaviors among school students in three age groups: 11, 13 and 15 years old.

“These findings show that Canadian youth have some very interesting health patterns in comparison to youth in other industrialized countries: lower levels of smoking but more cannabis use; higher levels of physical activity but more overweight,” says SPEG director William Boyce, who edited and contributed to the Canadian portion of the report. “These patterns need more study,” Dr. Boyce adds.

Other Queen’s contributors to the report are: Ian Janssen (Kinesiology and Health Studies), Wendy Craig (Psychology), Will Pickett (Community Health and Epidemiology), John Freeman, Don Klinger, Matt King and Hana Saab from the Faculty of Education; and Frank Elgar from Carleton University.

The HBSC survey has been carried out in Canada every four years since 1990 by the Social Program Evaluation Group (SPEG) at Queen’s, in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada. The study is supported by the World Health Organization and involves research teams from 41 countries in North America and Europe.

The survey provides the latest evidence from such health-behaviour areas as: health and well-being, smoking, drinking, cannabis use by 15-year-olds, sexual health of 15-year-olds, physical activity, eating habits, body dissatisfaction, dieting and weight control, overweight, oral health, bullying and fighting, injuries, and young people’s life circumstances: family, school, peers.

While Canadian young people are generally about average on most measures used in the HBSC survey, there are some notable exceptions:

• Canadians have higher than average overweight and obesity rates.

• We have low daily soft drink consumption.

• Canadian boys are more physically active than those in many other countries, but girls are closer to the average.

• Daily smoking rates for Canadian 15 year olds are among the lowest for HBSC countries and have dropped substantially from 2002.

• Weekly drinking rates for Canadians are lower than average.

• Canadian 15-year-olds rank at the top for cannabis use, although the rate has dropped substantially from 2002.

Inequalities are widespread internationally. For example, at age 15 girls in every country and region report poorer health than boys; and life satisfaction is universally better among young people living in more affluent family circumstances. Physical activity is at its lowest among 15- year-olds, especially girls. And fewer than half of young people in almost every country and region participate in one hour or more of at least moderate physical activity every day.


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