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Health Department Releases Summary Results of 2021 Cambridge Teen Health Survey

November 15, 2021

The Cambridge Public Health Department (CPHD) and Cambridge Public Schools (CPS) have released summary results from the 2021 Cambridge Middle Grades and Teen Health Survey. The survey is conducted regularly to assess the health behaviors of CPS middle and high school students. 
 
This year’s survey and subsequent results are particularly meaningful as our students continue to navigate the challenges of the pandemic and the return to full-time in-person learning. 
 
“While our students’ resilience and ability to adapt continues to inspire us, there is no doubt that the pandemic has amplified many concerns among our youth, a trend that many school districts across the country are grappling with,” said Interim Superintendent Dr. Victoria Greer. “CPS is committed to working with students, families and partners, including CPHD, to support our students’ social-emotional health and well-being.” 
 
This year’s survey project was overseen by a Steering Committee of staff from CPS and CPHD. John Snow, Inc. provided support for the project and students from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School contributed to preparing the survey questions. The survey was administered online in May 2021 to all CPS middle and high school students. 
 
Given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 survey was shorter than in prior years and was designed as a “pulse check” to ascertain quickly, with less student burden, health status and risk factors for Cambridge students. A total of 2,029 students chose to take the voluntary survey, a 66% participation rate. The survey is typically administered to middle grades and high school students in alternating years. Since the 2020 survey was cancelled due to the pandemic, both groups of students were surveyed in 2021.  
 
“The information provided by the Youth Health Survey is always important for identifying trends and issues of concern,” said Susan Breen, Cambridge’s Interim Chief Public Health Officer. “This year, it has helped to highlight the impact that the pandemic has had on the well-being of our young people. We will continue to work with CPS as they seek ways to support students, with a particular eye toward mental health.” 

 Key Findings
  • Mental health among youth worsened during the pandemic, with increases in symptoms of depression and anxiety. These issues were more prominent among high school, Hispanic/Latinx, genderqueer and female students.
  • Youth reported a decline in social connections. Fewer high school and middle school students in 2021 reported having at least one close friend or having a teacher or other adult to talk to compared to previous survey years.
  • In 2021, students were asked about their COVID-related experiences. The most common experience students reported was trouble concentrating or paying attention, followed by fear of contracting the coronavirus, attempts to stay away from people because of this fear, and anxiety about returning to school.
  • Similar to national trends, there was a sharp decrease in the proportion of students reporting current use of the most common substances: alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes and electronic vapor products.
  • Safety concerns appear to be higher for females and genderqueer students, with the exception of violence, which is more of a concern for Black/African American and Asian youth.
  • Although students reported less physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption remained stable and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages decreased. 
A summary of results for the 2021 Cambridge Teen Health Survey and findings from previous years’ surveys can be found on the Cambridge Public Health Department's Health Data & Reports webpage and the Cambridge Public Schools Health Survey webpage.
 
A discussion of the 2021 survey results and related work will take place at the School Committee School Climate Sub-Committee meeting on Tuesday, November 30 at 6:00 p.m.
 
MEDIA CONTACT

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


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Susan D. Breen
Interim Chief Public Health Officer
 

         


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