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Queen's-led national study identifies mental health as a primary concern for Canada's youth

February 17, 2012

Canadian girls report higher levels of emotional problems and lower levels of emotional well-being and life satisfaction, while boys tend to experience more behavioural problems and demonstrate less pro-social behavior, according to a new Queen's University-led national study of youth health behavior.

The study also emphasizes the importance of home, school, peers and local neighbourhood in the lives of young people. The varying interpersonal relationships that arise in these four different contexts may be critical for adolescent mental health.

"In examining the connections between contextual factors and mental health, one key theme emerges: Interpersonal relationships matter," says John Freeman, an associate professor of education and director of Queen's University's Social Program Evaluation Group (SPEG). "No matter how mental health is measured and no matter what interpersonal relationship is concerned, adolescents with positive interpersonal relationships tend to fare better in terms of mental health."

26,078 young Canadians aged 11 to 15 from 436 schools participated in the latest survey, which focused on the mental health of Canadian school-aged adolescents. This year Canadian youth were also surveyed and their reflections have been incorporated into the final report.

Other key findings include:

- The overall proportion of young people feeling understood by their parents today is higher than in previous years.

- More boys than girls are physically active for at least 60 minutes a day

- More boys see their body as too thin, while more girls believe their body is too fat

- 40 per cent of boys and 37 per cent of girls report using cannabis at least once.

- Young people who are victimized tend to have high levels of emotional problems, while young people who bully tend to have the highest levels of behavioural problems

Other members of the Queen's research team include William Pickett (Community Health and Epidemiology); Ian Janssen (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies); Wendy Craig (Psychology); Matthew King and Don Klinger (Education) and Frank Elgar (Institute of Health and Social Policy, McGill University).

A link to the study is available here:

Queen's University

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