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Posted on: March 22, 2022

Healthy Youth Survey results include good news about substance use, concerns around mental health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  
March 22, 2022

CONTACT: 
communications@snohd.org 

Healthy Youth Survey results include good news about substance use, concerns around mental health

More than 15,000 Snohomish County students responded to the fall 2021 survey

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WA – Most youth in the county are making healthy decisions to avoid substance use, while mental health impacts and excessive screen time continue to be concerns, based on results from the 2021 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey.

The survey was given to students in the fall. A digital and paper option were offered. More than 15,000 students around Snohomish County participated, which is about 7 out of every 10 enrolled students in those grades. Their responses show existing good habits to build upon, as well as some areas of concern.

Media Notice: Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters will provide COVID-19 updates and Healthy Youth Survey remarks during the availability at 2 p.m. today. 
Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/91384680622?pwd=aFc2aHRIQTh6N0NMSWFxOXNadlJCUT09.
ID: 913 8468 0622 / Passcode: 040050

The survey is optional and anonymous, and is for students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12. It gathers information on topics such as physical activity and nutrition, alcohol and drug use, physical and sexual abuse, school safety, and depression and suicide. The 2021 survey was the seventeenth such survey.

Highlights
Reports of substance use are much lower than recent years among grades 8, 10, and 12, including fewer reports of smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and using marijuana or hashish in the previous 30 days, as well as fewer reports of binge drinking in the previous 2 weeks. 
Smaller proportions of students’ living arrangements were due to their family’s inability to afford housing compared with previous years.  
Fewer students report their family needing to cut meal size or skip meals due to lack of money for food. 
Fewer students report engaging in any physical fight in the previous 12 months compared with previous years. 


Concerns
More students are spending 3 or more hours per day watching television, streaming videos, or on a computer playing video games or for something that isn’t related to schoolwork, especially among grades 6 and 8. 
About the same proportion of students as in past surveys are reporting suicidal ideation, with a slight increase in depression over previous years. 
Students in grade 6 are more likely than the other grades to report extreme worry about COVID-related economic security, including their parents or guardians losing jobs, family being unable to afford rent or housing, or not having enough food to eat. 


While this information is useful, it is important to be cautious in drawing conclusions or identifying trends based on comparisons between this survey and past years. The Healthy Youth Survey is generally done every other year, so students who were in grade 6 for the last survey would take it again in grade 8, grade 8 students would take it again in grade 10, and so on. 

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the most recent survey was postponed from 2020 to 2021. This means different cohorts of students were surveyed. 

Also, students were not living in comparable conditions to those who were surveyed three years prior. A number of increases and decreases observed in the data may largely reflect impacts of the pandemic. For instance, the increase in students receiving free and reduced lunches may be tied to the expansion of the program during the pandemic to include all students regardless of financial need, as well as the addition of pick-up and take-home options for lunch during remote learning. 

Fact sheets on Snohomish County data from the most recent survey will be posted at www.snohd.org/hys, and fact sheets from past years also are available on that page. Fact sheets by topic will be added in the coming weeks as they are finished.

The survey results are a valuable data snapshot that helps outline areas to build upon as well as areas of concern. The survey is one of a number of information sources used by public health and community partners. 

Other sources include Community Health Assessments, with a new one expected to be underway soon for Snohomish County, as well as specific data, reports or reviews on key topics. For example, a group of organizations involved in child death reviews took a look at youth suicide data from August 2019 to August 2020. There were no youth suicides in the county in that 12-month period – the first time in two decades that Snohomish County had gone a full year without losing any youth to suicide. Focused discussions on topics like suicide give additional perspective for prevention efforts.

The Healthy Youth Survey is a statewide, collaborative effort of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Department of Health, the Health Care Authority - Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, and the Liquor and Cannabis Board. More information is available at AskHYS.net.

Resources:

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