Press Release: New Health Crisis of Our Young Generation:Surveillance Finds Many School Students Are Emotionally Disturbed
A large-scale surveillance conducted by the Centre of Health Education and Promotion of The Chinese University of Hong Kong revealed that many of our younger generation are emotionally disturbed and good school environment is conducive to the health of adolescents.
This study on youth health risk behaviours was conducted in late 2001 on 1,906 primary school students and 5,286 secondary school students aged 10 to 16 from 34 schools. It examined self-rated academic performance, health status, life satisfaction and depressive symptoms; and their correlation with other health risk behaviours (i.e., physical inactiveness, unhealthy diet, smoking, alcohol drinking and taking illicit drug).
The key findings include:
27% of students disagreed that they had satisfactory life.
26% of students felt hopeless and 10% felt lonely most of the time.
14.7% of students have considered suicide and nearly 10% have planned for it.
Less than 40% would seek help form parents and only about one quarter of students would seek help from teachers or social workers when they had suicidal ideation.
35.8% of students had depressive symptoms.
The median Life Satisfaction Score was found to be 19 on a scale of 5 to 30 with higher scores being more satisfied with life (in this study the minimum score was 5, maximum score was 30, and 50% of the subjects ranged 15 to 23).
Depressive symptoms are associated with a number of factors. Amongst those with depressive symptoms, only 31.7% performed exercise regularly whilst for those without 68.3% did so. Around 25% of students with depressive symptoms had considered suicide and hurt themselves versus less than 10% amongst those without depressive symptoms. Those with depressive symptoms were more likely to have unhealthy eating habits, smoke, drink alcohol or take illicit drugs. They were more likely to report being threatened at schools or involved in fighting.
Amongst those students who self-rated themselves distinction in academic performance, only 23.2% had depressive symptoms whilst 55% of those with poor self-rated academic performance had such symptoms. Similarly, those considered themselves distinctive in academic performance had higher life satisfaction scores than those rating themselves poor in academic performance. Students who are taking regular exercise, healthy diet, non-drinkers, non-smokers, not taking illicit drugs, and no fighting or receiving threats of being injured had higher life satisfaction scores.
Schools with lower depression scores were found to differ in certain aspects of school social environment and community partnership from those with higher scores. These were: a supportive social environment, school ethos promoting closer relationship between staff and students, and follow up action plans for unforeseeable events. These schools rewarded students for academic improvement and participation in community services and created a positive climate for youth development.
The Centre for Health Education and Health Promotion conducted the first territory wide student health surveillance survey in 1999. Over 10% students reported their normal daily activities interfered because of their poor physical and emotional health. Over 50% school children did not perform vigorous exercise regularly. The results aroused the public attention to the health of our young generation. This present study shows that the proportion of students feeling hopeless has increased from 14% in 1999 to 25% in 2001.
This present study further proves that the health of children and adolescents will affect their ability to learn. As early as 1998, the Centre launched the "Healthy Schools"/Health Promoting Schools Programme. The concept of Health Promoting School helps to develop a safe social and physical environment for the 'total population' of the school. The school environment has a direct impact on the self-esteem, educational achievement, and health of its pupils and staff. The Hong Kong Healthy Schools Award Scheme builds on the concept of health promoting school to encourage educational achievement, better health and emotional well-being; thereby supporting pupils in improving the quality of their lives. It also promotes staff development, parental education, involvement of whole school community, and linkage with different stakeholders so as to improve the health and well-being of the students, parents and staff, and the community at large. With increasing number of students with emotional problems and health risk behaviours, an integrated, holistic and school-based approach to promote youth health is needed. This study has shown that eliminating one health risk behaviour would improve the overall physical and emotional well being of the students.