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Health Department Releases Summary Results of 2018 Cambridge Teen Health Survey

January 17, 2019

View Full Summary Report (PDF) 
The Cambridge Public Health Department has released summary results from the 2018 Cambridge Teen Health Survey. The survey is given every other year to assess the health behaviors of Cambridge public high school students.
 
The Teen Health Survey is administered by the health department and the Cambridge Public Schools in collaboration with the city’s Department of Human Service Programs and Social Science Research and Evaluation, Inc.
 
The 2018 Teen Health Survey was given to all Cambridge Rindge and Latin School students in attendance on April 12, 2018. More than 1,400 students voluntarily responded to questions about demographics; substance use; violence and safety; mental and sexual health; health care access; physical activity and nutrition; and other topics.
 
“The Teen Health Survey is a valuable source of information on health-related behaviors among Cambridge teens,” said Claude Jacob, the city’s Chief Public Health Officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department. “In 2018, the team substantially revised the survey to better reflect current trends and language related to identity, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We hope these changes enable the health department and our partners to better develop programs that address disparities among different populations, which we know has a major impact on health and well-being.”
 

Key Highlights and Trends

 
Substance Use
  • With the exception of electronic cigarette use, all other reported substance use (alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes, and other drugs) continued to steadily decline.
  • The number of students who reported using electronic cigarettes increased sharply from 2016, the first year the question was asked. Students who reported ever using e-cigarettes increased from 20% in 2016 to 33% in 2018, while students reporting current e-cigarette use rose from 5% in 2016 to 18% in 2018.
  • Alcohol (28%), marijuana (24%), and electronic cigarettes (18%) were the most commonly used substances reported by high school students.
  • White students were more likely to report current use of alcohol (40% among White students, 27% among Hispanic students, 15% among Black students, and 11% among Asian students).
  • Hispanic and White students were more likely to report current use of marijuana (28% among Hispanic students, 27% among White students, 19% among Black students, and 11% among Asian students).
Violence and Safety
  • Although overall reports of witnessing violence in the family (7% in 2018 vs. 10% in 2008) and in the neighborhood (10% in 2018 vs. 24% in 2008) are decreasing, gender and racial disparities exist.
  • Girls were more likely than boys to report receiving verbal or emotional abuse from a family member (21% girls vs. 12% boys, 17% overall); receiving rude sexual comments (32% girls vs. 5% boys, 18% overall); being touched, pinched, grabbed, or patted in a sexual way against their will (16% girls vs. 5% boys, 11% overall); and being treated unfairly due to their gender (12% girls vs. 3% boys, 7% overall).
  • Hispanic (10%) and Black (7%) students were more likely to report witnessing violence in their family compared to White students (3%).
  • Hispanic (16%) and Black (12%) students were more likely to report witnessing violence in their neighborhood compared to White students (6%).
  • Black (19%), Asian (16%), and Hispanic (12%) students were more likely to report being treated unfairly due to their race/ethnicity than White students (4%).
  • Reports of bullying have remained stable over time with 14% of students in 2018 reporting being bullied at school, 11% reporting being bullied outside of school, 8% reporting being bullied online, and 14% of students reporting stolen or damaged property while on school grounds.
Mental Health
  • Girls were more likely than boys to report meeting with a Teen Health Center counselor (11% girls vs. 6% boys), meeting with a therapist (24% girls vs. 14% boys), and taking medication for a mental health or behavioral issue (14% girls vs. 9% boys).
  • Students reported worrying most frequently about school failure or poor grades (37%), standardized tests (36%), weight problems (28%), arguing at home (19%), physical health problems (16%), their social status/popularity (16%), how others perceive them on social media (15%), and their family not having enough money to get by (15%).
    • Girls were more likely than boys to report worrying about almost all of these issues, particularly weight problems (37% girls vs. 18% boys), standardized tests (44% girls vs. 28%), school failure or poor grades (44% girls vs. 30% boys), and how others perceive them on social media (22% girls vs. 9% boys).
    • Worries varied by race and ethnicity as well. In particular, school failure (39% of Black students; 31% of White students; 42% of Hispanic students; 39% of Asian students; 40% of multiracial students), standardized tests (35% of Black students; 32% of White students; 40% of Hispanic students; 42% of Asian students; 41% of multiracial students), and their family not having enough money to get by (19% of Black students; 9% of White students; 19% of Hispanic students; 12% of Asian students; 18% of multiracial students) varied significantly.
  • Students reporting symptoms of anxiety and symptoms of depression have increased over time. In 2018, 34% of students reported feeling tense, nervous, or worried every day for two or more weeks in a row during the past 30 days and 26% reported feeling so sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row that they had stopped doing some usual activities during the past 12 months.
    • Girls were much more likely than boys to report symptoms of anxiety (44% girls vs. 24% boys) and symptoms of depression (34% girls vs. 18% boys).
  • Students who reported hurting themselves on purpose have slowly increased from a low of 9% in 2004 to a high of 15% in 2018. Students who reported that they had seriously considered suicide peaked in 1998 at 11%, declined to 5% in 2006, and rose back to 11% in 2018. Students who reported making a plan to commit suicide peaked at 10% in 1998 and was at 9% in 2018. Students who reported attempting suicide dropped from a high of 8% in 1998 and has remained stable at around 2% since 2004.
  • Girls were more likely than boys to report these mental health concerns: hurt oneself on purpose (22% boys vs. 8% girls), seriously considered suicide (15% boys vs. 6% girls), made a plan to commit suicide (10% boys vs. 6% girls), and attempted suicide (3% boys vs. 2% girls).
Sexual Health
  • 63% of sexually active high school students reported that they or their partner used a condom to prevent pregnancy the last time they had sexual intercourse.
  • In 2018, the Teen Health Survey began allowing students to report multiple methods of pregnancy/sexually transmitted infection prevention. In addition to condom use, 35% reported using birth control pills; 14% reported using the withdrawal method; 12% reported having an IUD or implant; and 6% reported using a shot, patch, or birth control ring.
  • Among sexually active high school students, 9% reported not using any method of pregnancy/sexually transmitted infection prevention.
Physical Activity and Nutrition
  • 79% of students reported participating in physical activity for a total of at least 60 minutes per day on at least one day in the last seven days, 40% on at least five days, and 13% on all seven days.
    • Black (29%), Hispanic (28%), and Asian (25%) students were more likely to report not participating in 60 minutes of physical activity at all over the last seven days compared to White students (13%).
  • Between 2008 and 2018, fruit consumption has increased from 73% to 78%, green salad/raw vegetable consumption has increased from 58% to 65%, and cooked vegetable consumption has increased from 60% to 64%.
  • Students who reported eating breakfast six or seven days per week remained steady over time, with 45% of students reporting this in 2018.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption varied by race and ethnicity, with 23% of Black students, 20% of Hispanic students, 13% of multiracial students, 6% of Asian students, and 4% of White students reporting drinking three or more beverages per day.
  • Girls were much more likely than boys to report trying to lose weight (52% girls vs. 34% boys), while boys were much more likely to report trying to gain weight (29% boys vs. 14% girls).
 
“There are positive trends in these data; however, the survey reveals significant gender and racial disparities in the experiences reported by our students,” said Damon Smith, principal of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. “Also, with an increase in overall mental health concerns, we recognize that social-emotional well-being, wellness, and issues of equity are intertwined and must be a stronger focus in our efforts to develop a supportive climate and culture where all CRLS students can achieve to their potential.”
 
Cambridge administers a similar health survey to middle school students every other year to better understand how health-related behaviors change as the youth transition from middle school to high school.
 
A summary of results for the 2018 Cambridge Teen Health Survey can be accessed at: http://bit.ly/2018-Cambridge-Teen-Health-Survey-Report. Findings from past high school and middle grades health surveys can be found on the Cambridge Public Health Department's health data webpage.  
 
MEDIA CONTACT

Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer
617-665-3833
sfeinberg@challiance.org


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