Kyiv, 28 May 2015 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has launched today the results of its study entitled “Health Behaviour in School-aged Children”. The study provides information on different aspects of adolescent health and the impacts of social factors on behaviour models of boys and girls in different age groups.

Kyiv, 28 May 2015 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has launched today the results of its study entitled “Health Behaviour in School-aged Children” (Analitical_report_HBSC_2015_Internet.pdf). The study provides information on different aspects of adolescent health, and the impacts of social factors on behaviour models of boys and girls of different age groups.

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“The results of a study show that there is an urgent need for  a more integrated approach to the development of a state policy on healthy life styles among youth, and for psychological support of children and adolescents in Ukraine”, said Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. 

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“The survey results support the notion that parents, teachers and the media play a crucial role in promoting a healthy life style among children and youth. Therefore, responsible parenting should be strengthened using the capacities of educational institutions and civil society organizations, in particular parents’ organizations. The increasing responsibility of television, printed and Internet media in promoting a healthy life style should also be considered in future youth-targeted strategies.”

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Family and its influence on the adolescent health. Almost half of schoolchildren spend their pocket money without any parental control. One out of every three mothers of schoolchildren do not know how their children spend their leisure time. 50% of all schoolchildren reported that their father does not know what they are doing after school. Almost every fourth adolescent (23%) never plays games with their parents. Family discussions of problems and news decrease with age: 70% - among 11-13-year-olds, 66% - among 15-year-olds, 62%- among 17-year-olds.

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Ukrainian adolescents of all age groups evaluate their health conditions as being lower than that of adolescents from Europe and North America. Every fifth adolescent assesses his own health as satisfactory or bad. Girls evaluate their health condition to be worse compared to boys (27% of girls reported their health to be satisfactory or bad compared to 14% of boys). 43% of respondents complained that at least once per week or more often they feel nervous (36% - boys, 51% - girls), 46% - irritated or ill-humoured (38% - boys, 53.5% - girls), 27% - gloomy (20% - boys, 34% - girls). 32% of respondents complained that they suffer from headache (24% - boys, 41% - girls), 23% - from backache (20%- boys, 26% - girls), 22.5% - from stomach-ache (17% - boys, 28% - girls), 19% - from insomnia (17%- boys, 23% - girls).

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In terms of body mass index, 15% of boys and 7.5% of girls are overweight or obese.

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Tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. One third of school-aged children have tried tobacco. Every tenth adolescent has tried his first cigarette by the age of 11. 7% of school-aged children (10% - boys, 5% - girls) are daily smokers. Half of students in vocational college are daily smokers.

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The number of students who consume alcohol remains constant through the last four years of………. Every seventh 11-year-old and 76% of 17-year-olds have tried alcohol. Every tenth boy and 6% of girls have tried alcohol by the age of 11. Almost every fourth adolescent aged 13-17 consumes alcohol monthly. One quarter of all adolescents reported that they have been drunk at least once in their lifetime (6% of 10-year-olds and 61% of 17-year-olds).

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Every ninth adolescent has tried marijuana at least once. The first use usually happens at the age of 15-16 years. 3% of adolescents reported use of marijuana during the last 30 days (0.4% of 13-year-olds, 6% of 17-year-olds). The most frequent users are students of vocational colleges – 7% reported use during the last 30 days (9% - boys, 5% - girls). 

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Sexually transmitted infections and HIV. Ukrainian adolescents are at risk of contracting STI and HIV due to low levels of awareness and risky behaviour. Every third boy and every sixth girl aged 13-17 had a sexual experience. Almost every eighth boy and third girl hasn’t used a condom during the last sexual intercourse. Sexually active girls in all age groups often do not use condoms (reported by two thirds of 13-year-olds, every fourth 15-16-year-old, and every third 17-year-old).

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Only 24% of respondents display correct knowledge regarding the modes of HIV transmission; this is far below the target of 95% awareness among youth.

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Teachers play the main role in spreading information about HIV/AIDS (mentioned by 64% of respondents), followed by Internet (62%), media (television – 62%, newspapers – 34%, magazines – 29%), medical workers (60%), parents (46%). Two thirds of all respondents (66%) know where they can get HIV testing.

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Insults and violence in schools. One third of all school children have engaged in fights at least once a year. Every fifth girl has resorted to using force to assert herself.

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36% of schoolchildren have been insulted at least once a year. 41% of respondents have insulted other pupils or students at their educational institution. Every eighth adolescent was insulted or humiliated through text messages, timeline posts on social media, e-mails or websites. Almost every tenth adolescent was insulted during the last two months through the posting of a bad photo on the Internet without permission.

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Low level of physical exercise and passive leisure. Frequency and duration of physical exercise and training show the low level of physical activity among schoolchildren, which is not in line with the WHO recommendations.  Only 35% of 10-year-olds and 18% of 17-year-olds exercise at least once daily. The low level of physical activity has been registered throughout multiple studies conducted in Ukraine (since 2001).

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76% of respondents watch TV up to three hours per day. However, this figure decreases with age. Every fourth 11-12-year-old (24-27%) spends 3-6 hours in front of the screen every workday; the same the same holds true for every third 13-year-old (33%) and 37% of 14-17year-olds. On the weekends, the time in front of the television significantly increases: almost 50% of 11-12-year-olds spend 3-6 hours watching TV, 55% of 13-year-olds did the same, as did 57% of 14-15-year-olds, 62% of 16-year-olds, 56% of 17-year-olds (50% - boys, 62% - girls).

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Adolescents spend less time playing computer games than watching TV on both workdays and weekends. 13-year-olds are the most dedicated gamers – 26% spend 4-6 hours a day playing computer games.
16-17-year-olds are active gadget users: every third adolescent spends more than four hours a day with his gadgets on a workday. On the weekend, this figure increases to 40%.

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The Report “Indicators and Social Context of Adolescent Health” analyses patterns of health and behaviour among 11-17-year-olds with respect to family and school environment.  The results of the study provide data on health, life style, nutrition, attitude to one’s own body, physical activity, mental condition, insults and violence, harmful habits, sexual behaviour and the level of knowledge regarding HIV prevention and modes of its transmission.

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About HBSC: In 2014 a sociological survey was conducted in 458 educational institutions (11 390 respondents) situated in 313 localities. The survey, supported by UNICEF, was conducted by the Ukrainian Institute for Social Research. It was modeled after O. Yaremenko in the framework of the WHO international project “Health Behaviour in School-aged Children” - conducted in 42 countries of Europe and North America. The survey included children in secondary school grades 5-11 , first- and second-year students at vocational colleges, and educational institutions of I-II levels of accreditation (on the basis of 9 years of school education) that corresponds to the age of 10-17 years.    

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Ukraine is a full-fledged participant of the international project “Health Behaviour in School-aged Children” (HBSC). There have been four waves of the survey in Ukraine (2002 - 5267 respondents; 2006 – 6535 respondents, 2010 – 10 343 respondents, 2014 – 11 390 respondents).

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Project implementation in Ukraine was supported by the following partners: Ministry of Health of Ukraine (working group has been established under its auspices), Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine, UNICEF Office in Ukraine.