Russian school-aged children report high degree of life satisfaction
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WHO Regional Office for Europe
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HBSC Principal Investigator in the Russian Federation
St Petersburg Scientific Research Institute for Physical Culture
Tel.: +7 905 212 70 84
Moscow, 14 December 2016
The latest international Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) report, which presents data from the 2013/2014 survey, shows that 82% of Russian adolescents report high rates of life satisfaction. This matches international trends and shows that differences in reported life satisfaction between adolescents in countries in western and eastern Europe have narrowed. Adolescents report significant increases in life satisfaction in Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine, as well as the Russian Federation, although figures have stabilized since the last study in 2009/2010. “The HBSC study is an important voice of young people: the findings reveal their concerns and should inform the policies that we develop for improving child and adolescent health and well-being. Listening to them will allow us to develop more targeted and effective interventions relevant for youth,” said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “It is encouraging to see positive trends in the health of Russian school-aged children, as the habits and attitudes acquired at this critical stage in life can affect the entire life-course.”
Positive trends and reasons for concern
In general, the latest HBSC report, Growing up unequal: gender and socioeconomic differences in young people’s health and well-being, reveals positive trends in the Russian Federation, which coincide with the global picture. A number of positive changes are worth highlighting.
- Schoolchildren drink fewer sugary soft drinks.
- Although still low, the level of physical activity is gradually rising.
- Levels of substance use – including alcohol, cannabis and tobacco – are gradually declining.
- The number of young people who rate their health as fair or poor has decreased.
At the same time, the report shows the need to pay close attention to other areas.
- Prevalence of bullying at school is quite high.
- Boys brush their teeth less often than girls – a trend which continues as they grow older.
- More girls use social media daily for communication with friends than boys, and this prevalence increases with age.
- At the age of 15 years, only 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 5 boys in the Russian Federation meet the guideline of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily recommended by WHO.
Findings from the 2009/2010 report showed significantly low levels of physical activity among Russian adolescents. This raised concern at the national level and spurred the Russian Ministry of Education and Science to include a third hour of physical education in the school curriculum per week. The 2013/2014 survey shows a gradual rise in the proportions meeting the guideline levels of physical activity from the 2009/2010 findings – from 16% to 23% for boys and from 9% to 15% among girls.
Using data to inform policy and monitor development is essential for effective policy-making. “The first global conference on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and health promotion in Moscow in 2011 defined different approaches to combating NCDs; one of these was the importance of forming a healthy lifestyle during childhood and adolescence. This includes fighting the use of tobacco and alcohol and unhealthy eating habits. The HBSC study creates an opportunity to monitor the health and well-being of adolescents and to understand the most problematic issues they face, so that these can be addressed in formulating policies for them,” said Dr Oleg Salagay, Head of the Department of Public Health and Communications, Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation.
Data on Russian youth as part of a broader picture
The findings on Russian school-aged children can be analysed in a wider international context, as the HBSC covers 42 countries in Europe and North America. Results are analysed by 340 in-country researchers, supported and coordinated by the International Coordinating Centre at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, United Kingdom, and the Data Management Centre at the University of Bergen in Norway.
The cross-national survey covers diverse aspects of adolescent health and social behaviour, including self-assessment of mental health; obesity and body image; dietary habits; engagement in physical activity; support from families and peers; tobacco, alcohol and cannabis use; and bullying. The latest HBSC report also has a special focus on the effects of gender and socioeconomic differences on the way young people grow and develop.
Much of WHO’s European strategy for improving child and adolescent health is based on data drawn from successive HBSC studies. The strategy sets out a vision, guiding principles and priorities for countries. It promotes working across sectors – from governments to nongovernmental and civil society organizations – to protect and promote the health and well-being of children and adolescents throughout the WHO European Region. The launch and the Russian translation of the report were supported by the Russian Ministry of Health as part of the work of the geographically dispersed office in Moscow, which is a regional centre of excellence in the field of prevention and control of NCDs. To access a full copy of Growing up unequal: gender and socioeconomic differences in young people’s health and well-being, go to: http://www.euro.who.int/en/hbsc-report-2016.