Health Department survey reveals stresses of adolescents

Kelsey LeyrerOur Town Health

The Knox County Health Department has released the latest Knox County Middle School Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is designed to track behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among middle school-age youth.


“To effectively respond to the health needs of our community, we must have a deep understanding of the local challenges we face,” said KCHD Senior Director Dr. Martha Buchanan.

The findings enable parents, organizations and the entire community to better understand the major challenges facing our students. This survey focuses on issues such as self-harm and violence, tobacco use, alcohol and other drug use, among others. Without this data providing valuable information about patterns and trends, realistic goals can’t be set and progress becomes hard to track.

Several of the findings reflected improving outcomes, such as a decline in more traditional forms of tobacco use, including cigarettes and cigars, and an increase in seatbelt use. However, several of the findings are concerning, especially regarding thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts, electronic vapor product use, misuse of prescription pain medication and the percentage of students who consider themselves overweight.

The following bullet points are a few of the key results:

  • One out of three middle school students reported they had carried a weapon such as a gun, knife or club.
  • Two of out five middle school students reported they were bullied on school property.
  • Almost one out of five middle school students reported they have seriously considered suicide.
  • One out of 12 students reported current electronic vapor product use, defined as one or more days of use during the past 30 days.
  • Almost one out of five middle school students reported they tried alcohol other than a few sips.
  • One out of four middle school students described themselves as “slightly overweight” or “very overweight.”
  • More than six percent of middle school students reported they had taken prescription pain medicine without a doctor’s prescription or orders.

While this report gives us insight into several health challenges facing youth in Knox County, it also merits a response. Addressing these issues early won’t just impact the health of our youth, but the health of our community.

“This report helps us and our partners discover important patterns and health trends, and it serves as a call to action for the community to engage in improving the health of all our children,” said Dr. Buchanan.

To view the full report, visit the Knox County Health Department’s webpage.

Kelsey Leyrer is division director of communications for the Knox County Health Department.

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