B.C. survey finds youth less positive about wellbeing, less hopeful for future

Are the kids alright?

Youth in B.C. are now less likely to rate their overall health and wellbeing positively and they feel less hopeful for their future, according to a recent province-wide survey.

The McCreary Centre Society's BC Adolescent Health Survey is funded by the BC government and has been held every five years for the past 30 years. The most recent edition, published Wednesday, surveyed about 38,500 young people between 12 and 19 years old this past spring.

While the majority of youth said they had a good life (76%) or that their life was going well (66%), they were less likely to rate their quality of life positively compared to five years ago. While 60% of youth rated their mental health positively, this marker has steadily decreased in the past 10 years, from 81% in 2013.

As for their view of their future, 59% felt quite or very hopeful about it, a decrease of 7% from five years earlier.

Additionally, the prevalence of self-harm amongst B.C. youth has increased over the past 10 years, with 24% of respondents having purposely cut or injured themselves. This is up from 15% in 2013 an 17% in 2018.

Over the past year, 18% of youth had “seriously thought about suicide,” while just over 5% had attempted suicide. This is slightly higher than in 2018, but lower than the percentages 10-30 years prior.

Youth in the province also appear to be having less sex than years past, from 30% of respondents having had sex in 1992 down to 16% in 2023.

When it comes to substance use, students are smoking tobacco and cannabis less than ever. In 1992, 60% of youth had smoked tobacco, but this past year, just 15% had. In 2023, 22% had tried cannabis, down from 25% in 2018 and 41% in 1998. About 38% of youth have tried alcohol, down from 67% back in 1992.

When it comes to other drugs, 6% have used mushrooms, and 2% have used cocaine ecstasy/MDMA.

Among those who've used substances, 61% said they wanted to have fun, 20% said they had used because they felt sad, while 5% said they were addicted.

The survey found youth in the province are more diverse than ever before, with 77% having been born in Canada. This is down from 84% back in 1992 and 79% in 2018. The percentage of youth who identified as having European heritage has steadily declined over the past few decades, from 61% to 42% between 2003 and 2023. It's still by far the most prevalent ethnic background amongst youth in the province, with East Asian (17%), South Asian (13%) and Indigenous (10%) making up the top four backgrounds.

About 5% of youth identified as non-binary, an increase of 3% from 2018, while about 1% identified as transgender. About 75% of respondents identified as straight, down from 82% in 2018.

Just one in five non-binary youth rated their mental health as good or excellent, while non-binary youth were about four times more likely as males to have self-harmed, contemplated suicide, or attempted suicide in the past year.

The entire report can be found here.

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