Holly Walker

Scary stats about youth health

by Holly Walker

Last Wednesday, I spent the afternoon at Te Papa at a Youth Health and Wellbeing Symposium organised by Auckland University to present and discuss the findings of a youth survey undertaken by their Adolescent Health Research Group.

This was the symposium where John Key made his surprise announcements about youth mental health interventions, which I’m cautiously going to say look positive to me.

It was abundantly clear from the research presented that we need to do things differently to improve youth health and wellbeing. You can see what I mean from the notes that I took. I tweeted a number of these at the time.

  • 30% of same sex attracted young people have clinically significant depressive symptoms.
  • Half of young males and a third of females have suffered an assault.
  • 20% of young females and 5% of young males report unwanted sexual experiences. Of those, only 40% told someone.
  • 16% have witnessed an adult hitting a child at home.
  • 10% have witnessed an adult hitting another adult at home.
  • Family violence is strongly associated with suicide and depression.
  • Students have concerns about privacy when accessing health care, especially for sensitive conditions – they just dont seek help, and therefore don’t get the healthcare they need. Not accessing healthcare is then linked to adverse outcomes like depression and unsafe sexual behaviour. The GP model does not work well for young people.
  • There is a clear linear relationship between school-based nursing and doctor hours and lower rates of self reported pregnancy.
  • This is not just about contraception and condoms. School-based healthcare professionals can also address other issues like mental health and drug and alcohol use that affect mental health, wellbeing, and contraception use.

Some of these stats are downright scary, especially those relating to violence and abuse. But there is some hope in the results too, when it comes to designing health services that work better for young people.

The survey is a great source of important information about the health and wellbeing of young people in New Zealand, and could be used to create really effective policy interventions to help.

If that’s what John Key has done with the help of Sir Peter Gluckman, then that’s good. We need more evidence-based policy that works.

I just hope the school-based healthcare announced by the Prime Minister is not just diagnostic, but resourced to treat and support young people as well, and I hope it doesn’t put extra strain on schools and teachers. And of course the elephant in the room is where the funding is coming from. With the recent announcement of another zero budget, I think it’s safe to assume this is not new spending, so what’s going? I guess we’ll find out in May.

Published in Health & Wellbeing by Holly Walker on Sun, April 8th, 2012   

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