Every other year since 2006, MetroWest communities have been able to monitor trends in health and risky behaviors and identify emerging health issues of students in grade 6 to 12 through the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey (MWHAS).
The valuable survey, used widely by schools and communities to improve policies and programs, inform prevention efforts, and set priorities for achieving a healthier youth population, is funded by the MetroWest Health Foundation.
In October 2012, all 25 communities served by the Health Foundation participated in the survey, the fourth conducted as part of a 10-year initiative. More than 40,000 students were surveyed, making this regional census one of the largest adolescent health surveys in the country.
Our thanks to the MetroWest Health Foundation for their commitment to healthy youth in our region. Some highlights from the high school survey are presented below.
ALCOHOL USE AND DRINKING AND DRIVING
Fewer high school students are drinking alcohol. Measures of lifetime drinking, recent drinking, and binge drinking all show steady declines at each timepoint from 2006 to 2012. Consistent with these declines, there is also a decrease in drinking and driving in the region.
There have been small fluctuations in marijuana use over the survey waves. In 2012, 32% of youth reported lifetime marijuana use and 22% reported current use. These figures are slightly lower than in 2010, and similar to 2006‐2008 levels.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG MISUSE
About one in 10 high school youth has misused prescription drugs in their lifetime. The data suggests a small decrease in lifetime prescription drug misuse, from 11% in 2006 to 9% in 2012.
Physical fighting, both on and off school property, has declined steadily since 2006. In VIOLENCE
Physical fighting, both on and off school property, has declined steadily since 2006. In 2012, 17% of youth reported being in a fight in the past 12 months, compared with 26% in 2006. However, during the same time period, reports of weapon carrying have remained similar.a small decrease in lifetime prescription drug misuse, from 11% in 2006
Cigarette smoking among MetroWest high school students has steadily decreased over the last 7 years. From 2006 to 2010, lifetime smoking decreased from 35% to 26%; it further declined to 22% in 2012. Both females and males are smoking less.
BULLYING & CYBERBULLYING
After peaking in 2010 at 28%, reports of bullying on school property in the past 12 months have decreased to 23% in 2012 and are the lowest they have been since the MWAHS began in 2006. In contrast, reports of cyberbullying continue to rise steadily, from 15% in 2006 to 22% in 2012.
Reports of mental health problems among high school youth have remained similar over each wave of the survey. In 2012, one in five youth (20%) reported depressive symptoms and one in twenty youth (5%) attempted suicide in the past year.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY, NUTRITION, AND BODYWEIGHT
The proportion of youth meeting national recommendations for physical activity has continued to increase steadily since 2006. However, the proportion of youth who are overweight or obese has remained similar at 19‐20%.
In 2012, 27% of youth reported engaging in sexual intercourse in their lifetime, compared with 29% in 2006. There also appears to be a slight increase in sexual safety, with more youth who are sexually active reporting condom use. However, one‐third of youth who have sex are not using condoms.
To view more summary data from the high school survey, click here.
To view more summary data from the middle school survey, click here.