Canadian Youth With Positive Community and Family Ties Report Better Health

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Half of Canadian teens report a high level of parental nurturing; 8 out of 10 say that they feel very connected to their peers

October 19, 2005 – Youth who say that they have positive ties with family, school, peers and community tend to be in better health and have higher self-worth, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s Canadian Population Health Initiative. Improving the Health of Young Canadians, 2005 explores the association between five positive “assets”-parental nurturing, parental monitoring, school engagement, volunteerism and peer connectedness-and the health behaviours and outcomes of Canadian teens.

Youth who report four or five assets are more likely to say that they are in very good or excellent health than youth with two or three assets, who in turn are more likely to report very good or excellent health than youth with zero or one asset. Rates of very good/excellent health among youth aged 12 to 15 were 83% (four to five assets), 74% (two to three assets) and 54% (zero to one asset) respectively in 2000-2001. In general, youth with more assets are more likely to report high self-worth and are less likely to report engaging in risky health behaviours, such as using tobacco, alcohol and marijuana.

“This research points to the fact that everyone can make a difference in healthy youth development,” says Dr. Richard Lessard, Chair of the Canadian Population Health Initiative Council and Director of Prevention and Public Health for the Agence de d�veloppement de r�seaux locaux de sant� et de services sociaux de Montr�al (Montr�al-Centre regional health and social services board). “Parents, school, friends and community are all important in helping a young person realize his or her potential as a healthy young adult. But not all Canadian teens report having strong social ties.”

The report showed that, in 2000–2001, 51% of youth aged 12 to 15 reported having four or five assets, 40% of youth in this age range reported having two or three assets and 9% of youth in this age range reported having zero or one asset.

Weighing the risks for youth

Findings from the report show that about half (53%) of youth aged 12 to 15 reported high levels of parental nurturing and parental monitoring. Youth who feel nurtured by their parents and feel engaged in their school are less likely to say that they engage in risky behaviours such as smoking, drinking alcohol, using marijuana and associating with peers who commit crimes. Youth who report higher levels of parental monitoring are also less likely to report engaging in risky behaviours such as using tobacco, alcohol or marijuana.

“It is not smooth sailing for all Canadian teens,” says Elizabeth Gyorfi-Dyke, Director of the Canadian Population Health Initiative at CIHI. “Teens who have lower levels of parental nurturance or who do not feel engaged at school are less likely to report being healthy and are more likely to participate in behaviours that can put their health at risk.”

Of teens between the ages of 12 and 15, 7 out of 10 reported a high level of school engagement (74%); 8 in 10 Canadian youth aged 12 to 17 reported high levels of peer connectedness (80%).

While feeling connected to peers is associated with many positive health outcomes, such as very good/excellent health status, male youth with high levels of peer connectedness are more likely to report injuries.

Results for volunteerism were mixed: 7 out of 10 Canadian teens report being involved in volunteer activities (73%), and youth who volunteer tend to report better health and self-worth, and lower rates of tobacco and marijuana use, than those who do not volunteer. But youth who do not volunteer are more likely to report low anxiety levels than those who do volunteer (63% versus 56% respectively, in 2000-2001).

Improving the Health of Young Canadians, 2005 draws primarily on Statistics Canada’s National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY, Cycle 4) and the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS, Cycle 2.1, 2003).

Canadian Population Health Initiative (CPHI)

The Canadian Population Health Initiative is part of the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). CPHI supports research to advance knowledge on the determinants of health in Canada and to develop policy options to improve population health and reduce health inequalities. Improving the health of Young Canadians is the first report in the 2005–2006 Improving the Health of Canadians series. A report on healthy weights will be released in February 2006 and a report on urban health will be released in June 2006.

About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) collects and analyzes information on health and health care in Canada and makes it publicly available. Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments created CIHI as a not-for-profit, independent organization dedicated to forging a common approach to Canadian health information. CIHI’s goal: to provide timely, accurate and comparable information. CIHI’s data and reports inform health policies, support the effective delivery of health services and raise awareness among Canadians of the factors that contribute to good health. www.cihi.ca

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