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Health Department Releases Summary Results of 2016 Teen Health Survey

April 28, 2017

Summary of Results from the 2015-2016 Cambridge Teen Health Survey (PDF)
The Cambridge Public Health Department has released summary results from the 2016 Cambridge Teen Health Survey, a survey given every other year to assess the health behaviors of Cambridge public high school students.

The Teen Health Survey is administered by the health department and the Cambridge Public Schools in collaboration with the city’s Department of Human Service Programs and Social Science Research and Evaluation, Inc.
The 2016 Teen Health Survey was given to all Cambridge Rindge and Latin School students in attendance on April 12, 2016. More than 1,500 students voluntarily responded to questions about demographics; substance use; violence and safety; mental and sexual health; health care access; physical activity and nutrition; and other topics.
“The Teen Health Survey provides valuable information on health-related behaviors of Cambridge teens,” said Claude Jacob, the city’s Chief Public Health Officer and director of the Cambridge Public Health Department. “In addition to helping us understand trends over time, the health department and community partners use these data for a range of purposes, from designing prevention programs to sharing information with families.”
Key highlights and trends from the 2016 Teen Health Survey

Substance Use

  • Students reporting current use of alcohol decreased substantially in the past 10 years (42% in 2006; 32% in 2016), as did students reporting current cigarette use (13% in 2006; 6% in 2016). Over the same time period, current marijuana use fluctuated between 26% and 30%.
  • Regarding opioids, 0.6% of students reported using heroin in their lifetime (0.3% reported current use), and 4% reported using pain medication without a prescription in their lifetime.
  • Students reporting living with a smoker (18%) is at its lowest level since the question was first introduced in 1996.

Violence & Safety

  • Students reporting getting into a physical fight in the past year declined sharply since 2006 (23% in 2006; 9% in 2016). Likewise, students reporting they currently carry a weapon is at its lowest level since 1994.
  • Students reporting being treated unfairly in school because of gender increased in the past decade (4% in 2006; 9% in 2016), as did students reporting being treated unfairly in school because of race or ethnicity (9% in 2006; 11% in 2016) and students reporting being sexually harassed in school (11% in 2006; 13% in 2016).
  •  In 2016, 16% of students reported being bullied at school and 9% of students reported being cyber-bullied. These questions were first introduced in 2012.
  • Regarding internet safety, 13% of students in 2016 reported speaking on the phone with an adult stranger met online and 8% of students reported meeting in person with an adult stranger met online. This question was first introduced in 2016.

Mental Health

  • Students reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression rose in the past 10 years, with 29% reporting anxiety symptoms and 25% reporting depression symptoms in 2016.

Sexual Health

  • In 2016, 67% of students reported that information received in health or sex education class caused them to be more careful about their sexual behavior.
  • Students reporting ever having sex declined in the past 10 years, from 50% in 2006 to 33% in 2016.
  • Among students who reported they were sexually active, 86% of students used a reliable method of birth control the last time they had sex.

Healthy Eating

  • Students reporting eating fruit (65% in 2006; 80% in 2016) and cooked vegetables (51% in 2006; 63% in 2016) on a daily basis increased substantially in the past 10 years. Students also reported drinking fewer sweetened drinks and soda than in 2014, and 76% of students reported drinking tap water on a daily basis in 2016.
  • Extracurriculars
  • The vast majority of high school students (85%) participated in some kind of after-school activity in 2016, such as academic clubs, music, community service, or sports.
"The Teen Health Survey offers us the opportunity to measure the impact of our health education and student support programs,” said Damon Smith, Principal of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. “The most recent results suggest that our efforts to target substance abuse and violent incidents have paid off. Unfortunately, we also see confirmation that we have more to do to address mental health concerns, bias, and bullying in the educational environment."
Cambridge administers a similar health survey to middle school students every other year to better understand how health-related behaviors change as the youth transition from middle school to high school.
The Summary of Results from the 2015-2016 Cambridge Teen Health Survey can be accessed at http://cambridgepublichealth.org/publications/Cambridge-MA-Teen-Health-Survey-2016-Executive-Summary.pdf.

Executive summaries for past high school and middle grades health surveys can be found at the bottom of CPHD’s Health Data & Reports page: http://cambridgepublichealth.org/services/health-data-reports/index.php.

Suzy Feinberg, MPH
Public Information Officer

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