May 19, 2017

Increase in Stress among High Schoolers, Study Shows

EDC researcher presents adolescent health survey results that shows smoking and drinking are down, but stress is up

Fewer students are smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol according to findings from the latest health survey of middle and high school students in 25 communities west of Boston. But while the research shows several positive trends, it also indicates a marked increase in stress among the students surveyed.

The results of the 2016 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, sponsored by the MetroWest Health Foundation, were released Thursday at a public meeting in Natick, Massachusetts. The full report is available online.

EDC’s Shari Kessel Schneider presented the research findings, noting that stress among the region’s youth has been a consistent concern since the survey was first conducted 11 years ago. Among high school students, reports of feeling “very stressed” in the past 30 days rose from 29 percent in 2012 to 36 percent in 2016. Stress levels among girls were nearly double the level among boys. Stress was also found to have increased slightly among middle school students.

“Viewing trends over time is crucial for local planning,” said Schneider. “It enables communities to make decisions about where to focus their resources and how to best address the issues that are affecting teens’ physical and mental health.”

In addition to reductions in smoking, the survey findings included a decrease in both the use of alcohol and the misuse of prescription drugs. The survey also found that school bullying has declined markedly since 2010.

More than 40,000 middle and high school students participated in the 2016 survey, which EDC has conducted every other year since 2006.