New Report Highlights Trends in Utah Adolescent Health: Mental health identified as a key concern

(Salt Lake City, UT) – While the health of Utah adolescents has improved in some areas, a new report from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) shows mental health and exposure to e-cigarettes continues to be of concern.

“Unfortunately, what stands out most in this report is that the measures we use to track adolescent mental health are all trending in the wrong direction,” said Michael Friedrichs, epidemiologist with the UDOH. “But there are also positive signs in the report. For example, fewer adolescents are being exposed to cigarette smoke and tanning devices which can put them at significant risk of cancer later in life.”

The UDOH, Utah Department of Human Services Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH), and the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) partner to conduct the School Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) surveys every odd-numbered year in public schools throughout the state. The SHARP surveys include the Prevention Needs Assessment (PNA) survey. Through active parental consent, students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 are asked about chronic conditions, lifestyles, mental health, substance abuse, and violence and injury.

Key findings from the report showed from 2013-2017:

  • Significant increases were seen among adolescents reporting feeling sad or hopeless (20.8% to 27.3%), suicide ideation (14.1% to 18.1%), making a suicide plan (10.8% to 14.3%), and one or more suicide attempt (6.2% to 7.7%).
  • While the use of cigarettes decreased (3.9% to 2.9%), the percentage of adolescents who used a vape product or e-cigarette nearly doubled (5.8% to 11.1%).
  • Significantly more adolescents with asthma have an asthma action plan (14.8% to 22.5%).
  • Significantly fewer adolescents report using a tanning device (7.7% to 4.0%).
  • There was a slight increase in the percentage of adolescents who wore a seat belt (93.8% to 95.5%).
  • Binge drinking, marijuana use and prescription drug use among adolescents remained the same from 2013 to 2017.

“These surveys are critical tools that help school administrators, teachers, and public health practitioners identify health and safety needs of Utah students and take steps toward protecting and improving adolescent health,” said Friedrichs. “Without this data, we wouldn’t be able to identify trends in risk behaviors or evaluate the success of programs that increase protective factors.”

For a full copy of the 2017 Utah Adolescent Health report, visit HealthReport.pdf.

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Media Contact:
Michael Friedrichs
Bureau of Health Promotion
(801) 538-6244