DHHS releases 2021 report on overall Utah adolescent health
Behavioral health issues among Utah Teens is on the rise while substance use has decreased
The Utah Department of Health and Human Services 2021 Utah Adolescent Health Report released on May 24, takes a look into the overall health of teens following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Friedrichs, deputy state epidemiologist with the DHHS, said this data helps identify risks and trends in adolescent behavior that can help parents, community members, teachers, school administration, and other adults protect and improve the health of teens in the state.
“I do want to make the point that it’s not just the schools’ responsibility, but it’s the responsibility of communities and parents and all of us to keep our adolescents healthy," Friedrichs said. "We just need to know how kids are doing with respect to physical health and mental health, substance abuse, so we can detect when things start to go awry,” said Friedrichs.
Findings of this study conclude the percentage of Utah students feeling sad or hopeless has steadily increased. Female students also reported more mental health concerns than their male counterparts. This includes feelings of sadness and hopelessness, psychological distress, social isolation, self-harm, suicidal ideation, suicide plans, and suicide attempts.
Friedrichs said this steady incline of mental health concerns among teens in Utah is not new, but researchers have noticed this incline since 2013.
“It’s all about connections," Friedrichs said. "And kids need connections, we all need connections. I can’t really imagine what it’s like for both parents and adolescents in the world today with all this technology, video, competing pressures of AP classes, sports, and everything else that’s going on in their lives.”
Substance use among teens in Utah decreased in 2021. This includes binge drinking, alcohol use, cigarette smoking, and marijuana use. Although data from this survey shows a 12.4% decrease in vape product use since 2019, vape products remain the most common source of nicotine addiction among Utah students.
“To see a sudden drop in all those things, tobacco-use, binge-drinking, marijuana-use at the same time was some-what surprising. We hope that trend continues, but whether that was because of schools being closed part of the time and lack of availability, more time at home. we don’t know.”
The report also takes a look at chronic conditions, physical activity, obesity, family meals, motor vehicle safety, and more regarding the overall safety of teens in the state.
Friedrichs stressed the importance of noting that the obesity rate of teens in the state has also increased. He says it’s important not to overlook the physical wellness sections that can also provide important information for the protection and improvement of adolescent health in Utah.