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Thursday, April 18, 2024
Dane County’s 2018 Youth Survey showed increases in mental and emotional health issues among middle and high schoolers.

Dane County’s 2018 Youth Survey showed increases in mental and emotional health issues among middle and high schoolers.

Dane County youth survey reveals uptick in emotional health problems

Dane County Youth Commission released the results of its 2018 Youth Survey Monday, showing a troubling increase in the amount of teens reporting problems with their emotional health.

The survey reached more than 21,000 students in 17 school districts. The Youth Commission conducts the survey every three years and asks seventh through 12th grade students about “health and nutrition, alcohol and other drug use, emotional and mental health, sexual activity and knowledge, bullying experience, out-of-school time activities, employment and many other risk and positive behaviors.”

This year’s survey revealed a significant decrease in teens who reported using alcohol in the past month, from 32.6 percent in 2015 to 22 percent this year. The number of respondents who reported alcohol use in the past year dropped from 35 percent to 31 percent.

Another promising note from the survey was a decrease in high school bullying and cigarette use, although 19 percent of respondents reported using e-cigarettes in the past month.

Despite the drops in alcohol and cigarette use, the results showed regressions in students’ mental and emotional health.

Respondents in 2018 reported a 35.6 percent rate of anxiety present “often or always,”a nearly ten percent increase from 2015. Anxiety is much more prevalent in high school females, who reported double the rate of their male counterparts at 47 percent.

Gay or lesbian students also reported higher anxiety levels, along with those from low-income families, with rates of 63 percent and 69.5 percent, respectively. Both rates were more than double those of students who are not in those categories.

Reported suicidal thoughts also saw a large increase, from 12 percent in the 2012 survey to 20.7 percent in 2018. Among high school females, the rate rose to 26 percent, while low-income students or those who identified as gay or lesbian reported rates double those of the general population. These groups also reported depression at twice the general rate, which rose four percent from its 2012 level to 23.5 percent this year.

“We cannot ignore the persistent emotional health concerns that our youth report struggling with, particularly among young women, LGBQ and low-income youth,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said. “The results speak to the continued need for school-based mental health services that Dane County has supported and expanded over the years.”

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