Over 40 per cent of 8 - 9th grade students say that they do not eat breakfast every weekday morning. The school health survey results also reveal that experimentation with drugs is on the rise, and that young men use snuff regularly.
The survey, carried out in upper comprehensive schools, high schools and vocational schools in Tampere over the course of last spring, is part of a national school health survey carried out by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). According to the survey, the state of health and living conditions among the youth in Tampere are generally good.
"Essentially, the results indicate that most of our youth are doing well," summarises Tuire Sannisto, Deputy Chief Physician of School Healthcare at the City of Tampere.
Many young people find that it is easier now than before to get an appointment with, for example, the school doctor or in high school, the school nurse. Furthermore, symptoms such as headaches and shoulder and neck pain occur somewhat less frequently. High school students felt that the school workload was more reasonable than before, while under-age drinking among upper comprehensive school students decreased. Vocational school students felt their health had improved.
However, the survey also highlighted certain alarming phenomena, such as the surprisingly commonly reported sexual abuse of young females. While the use of alcohol has decreased, the use of cannabis has become more commonplace. Experimentation with other drugs has also become more common.
As many as a quarter of secondary school students have experimented with drugs at least once in their lives. Experimentation with drugs has increased among students in upper comprehensive schools, high schools as well as vocational schools. Youth are exposed to drugs more than before, and they are also passively affected by drug use. Illegal substances, users and related problems are witnessed or experienced online, on the street and at house parties.
Around 7,600 youth in Tampere took part in the survey, which is carried out every other year. The respondents are 8th and 9th grade students, 1st and 2nd year high school students and vocational school students.
The health risks of snuff are not known
The use of snuff has increased, while smoking appears to be decreasing. Snuff use is more inconspicuous, which is why it is often used at home and during classes at school. However, the youth are not necessarily well aware of the health risks of snuff. Long-term snuff use may cause, for example, changes in the mucous membrane of the mouth, gum infections, tooth discolouration and mouth and throat cancer. The nicotine contained in snuff affects the entire organism, impeding the functioning of blood vessels, the heart and the nervous system. Snuff use may also increase the risk of diabetes.
Another troublesome phenomenon is that 20 - 30 per cent of girls have indicated that they have experienced sexual abuse in the form of involuntary intimate touching, pressuring, forcing or offering money for sex. Boys indicated that they experience physical threats more often than girls.
The eating habits of youth could also be improved; as many as over 40 per cent of the respondents indicated that they do not eat breakfast every weekday morning. Furthermore, in Tampere almost the same number of upper comprehensive school students do not eat their school lunch every day. Around 60 per cent of the upper comprehensive school students state that their family does not have a meal together in the afternoon or evening. The recommended habit of brushing one’s teeth twice a day is often neglected by many of the youth.
Meanwhile the youth spend a lot of time on a computer or watching television. As many as 28 per cent of the upper comprehensive school students go to bed after 11 p.m., while more than 40 per cent indicated that their parents do not always know where their upper comprehensive school-aged children spend their evenings at weekends.
Competition seeks new ways of utilising results at schools
The data elicited from the school health survey is utilised in the educational institutions that participated in the survey. The upper comprehensive schools, high schools and vocational schools have been provided with a summary of the responses given by their students. The results are discussed, for example, in student welfare teams, and they have also been reported on during parent-teacher meetings.
This year, the City of Tampere will be organising a competition on the utilisation of the results, challenging the student and parent associations and other operators in the area. The regional child and youth well-being competition is aimed at finding various implementations, events and deeds to support everyday situations in terms of increasing interaction between children, youth and adults to deal with the positive and negative aspects of the school health survey. The competition also welcomes young families to participate in the planning and implementation of the competition.
Registration for the competition ends 5 March 2012. Another similar competition will be held in the autumn.
The panel of judges will select the best implementation during week 19 (mid-May). The reward is 500 euros and a visit from the Adult of the Year 2011, rock musician Jussi Aaltonen. The City of Tampere website contains detailed information on the child and youth well-being competition.