BROOKLINE — Health Commissioner Dr. Swannie Jett is pleased to share the results of Brookline Public Health and Human Services’ 2015-18 Healthy Brookline Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
This report includes a health risk behaviors survey that was conducted throughout the summer and fall of 2017. The survey was administered to a total of 1,542 high school students and 1,067 middle school students in grades seven and eight. Student participation was both voluntary and anonymous.
“We use the results of our survey to help identify which risk behaviors are prevalent in our community and whether they are decreasing or increasing throughout the years,” Health Commissioner Jett said. “While we’ve noticed a decreasing trend in some of these behaviors, others are still rising. These identified trends will be used to develop future strategies, policies and dialogue surrounding risk behaviors and prevention.”
Survey questions focused on substance use, violence-related behaviors and bullying, mental health, dietary behaviors and physical activity, perception of safety and adult support, sexual behaviors, driving safety and use of technology. The questions ask students about their behaviors regarding these topics in the past month (current) or at any point in their lifetime.
Some encouraging trends from the district’s results include:
- The use of tobacco remains low. The rate at which Brookline teens had ever used tobacco (17%) was lower than the state (29%) and national (31%) rates.
- The reported rate of lifetime marijuana use was 26% for Brookline High School students, compared to 41% for state and 39% for US levels
- Brookline High School students reported fewer violence-related risk behaviors than their Massachusetts and U.S. counterparts in several categories, and lower rates of sexual intercourse compared to the state (36%) and national averages (41%).
- A decrease among high school students in derogatory remarks regarding sexual orientation at school from 68% in 2015 to 56% in 2017
- Brookline’s high school and middle school students reported rates of illegal drug use remained relatively low.
- When driving a car, 94% of Brookline High School students reported that they always wear seat belts.
Some concerning trends among Brookline seventh through 12th-grade students include:
- The rate of BHS students who reported feeling overwhelming stress or anxiety during the 12 months preceding the survey rose from 82% in 2015 to 84% in 2017. Similarly, 79% of seventh and eighth graders reported experiencing overwhelming stress or anxiety in 2017 compared to 70% in 2015.
- The number of students who reported being bullied at the high school increased from 9% in 2015 to 13% in 2017.
- 17% of Brookline High School students have felt unsafe at home or in the community in the month prior to completing the survey.
- Among Brookline High School students who drive, 17% reported having driven a car or another vehicle after consuming alcohol at some point in the month leading up to completing the survey.
The results from the survey are used to help the district identify school and community needs and make decisions regarding health and wellness education and programs for students, staff and parents.
As shown by the data, bullying, tobacco and marijuana use and alcohol consumption continue to be a concern. In addition, the number of students reporting that life is very stressful is a concern.
Research suggests that young people who do not become involved in risk behaviors share a common set of characteristics, termed “resiliency,” that enable them to make healthy choices. Children may develop resiliency through a variety of protective factors, including those found within themselves, their families, their schools and their communities.
Potential protective factors include academic achievement, significant relationships with a parent or caregiver, significant relationships with an adult member of the school community and involvement in community service.
58% of Brookline seventh and eighth-grade students reported that they have at least one adult they can talk to in school and 88% reported that they have an adult they can talk to outside of school if they have a problem. 62% of Brookline High School students reported they have at least one teacher or other adult in the school they could approach if they have a problem.
To view a comprehensive copy of the results, click here.
This data only applies to youth who attend Brookline High School and Brookline Middle Schools and fully completed the survey.