FILE - In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, a person uses a smart phone in Chicago. A new analysis suggests that increased social media use could be one factor contributing to a rise in teen suicide. (AP Photo)

B.C. teens struggling more with anxiety, depression: 2018 report

The 2018 BC Adolescent Health Survey included 140 questions and was conducted in 58 school districts

Teenagers in B.C. are struggling more with anxiety and depression, and taking part less in sports and volunteering, according to the 2018 BC Adolescent Health Survey.

The report, released Wednesday by the McCreary Centre Society, was administered in 58 of the province’s 60 school districts and was the sixth time students were asked to participate since 1992.

Despite the majority of adolescents rating their overall health and mental health as good or excellent, the report found that health ratings have declined from five years earlier.

Students who reported having an anxiety disorder or panic attack increased from eight per cent in 2013 to 19 per cent in 2018, and reports of depression rose from 10 to 15 per cent.

The number of girls who reported being verbally sexually harassed in the past year remains high at 50 per cent — an uptick from 46 per cent.

Other troubling statistics include more students who reported they had cut or injured themselves on purpose without trying to kill themselves, seriously considered killing themselves, and/or missed out on needed mental health services. However, the percentage of students who reported attempting suicide dropped to five per cent.

Most B.C. youth from 12 to 17 years old did not meet the Canadian physical activity guidelines.

“The survey results confirm what we have heard anecdotally: B.C. teens are generally less likely to be engaged in extracurricular activities … and they are more likely to be struggling with their mental health and sleep,” said Annie Smith, executive director at McCreary. “It was also worrying to see increases in areas such as racial discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and dating violence.”

Also encouraging was a decrease in the number of teens who reported have recently engaged in binge drinking, had a serious injury, or engaged in sexting.

Many results went unchanged from 2013, such as the percentage of students who tried alcohol, marijuana, or had sex.

Students who experienced setbacks but continued to persevere were more likely to report positive mental health and have plans to pursue post-secondary studies, and were less likely to experience extreme stress.

“It will be important to look into what is driving these results, and find ways to better support youth who are having these negative experiences,” Smith said.

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