Welsh teenagers exercise less and use screens more, survey finds
Teenagers in Wales are exercising less and spending more time in front of screens, according to the results of a national survey.
It revealed that only 16% of young people met the recommended exercise guidelines of 60 minutes a day.
More than 123,000 high school students took part in the School Health Research Network survey in 2021, when Covid restrictions were in place.
Public Health Wales said the increase in screen use was “really significant”.
The survey asked students aged 11 to 16 about aspects of their physical and mental health and social relationships, and found that nearly a quarter of children said they had experienced high levels of health symptoms mental.
Young people’s life satisfaction also declined gradually between 2017 and 2021.
Teenagers living in Monmouthshire reported the highest levels of life satisfaction, while those living in Merthyr Tydfil reported the lowest.
The Welsh Government has launched a pilot program focused on improving students’ mental health and wellbeing post-pandemic.
King Henry VIII Secondary School in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, which is part of the scheme, has selected pupils to become Mental Health Ambassadors to encourage better well-being among their peers.
One of the ambassadors, Lucy, 15, said: “I try to take time to read before I go to sleep instead of being on the phone late at night. I also try to eat healthy because I see myself happier when I feel better.”
Another, Spike, 14, said: “Spending too much time on my phone affects me, but I also find that it doesn’t need to be on the screens. I feel impacted even though I don’t do nothing, even if it’s just sitting around not having a job to do.”
And Seren, 16, said: “I like to go to bed early and I like to walk the dogs just to get some fresh air if I’ve had a stressful day, especially in year 11 with exams coming up. .”
Deputy Chief Jake Parkinson said education and pastoral care were “inextricably linked”.
“You need to make sure that students can feel safe and belong in school and feel happy that they can be successful academically,” Parkinson said.
Other survey findings included fewer young people aged 11 to 16 doing rigorous exercise outside of school on a regular basis, compared to those who responded in 2017 and 2019.
There was an average increase of almost 10% in the number of young people who said they went to bed after 11:30 p.m. on a school night, while 7% more said they looked at screens after 11:30 p.m.
But there has been a drop in the number of teenagers who reported drinking alcohol. Fewer also reported smoking or vaping.
The survey is carried out every two years by Cardiff University and Public Health Wales.
Dr Nick Page, from Cardiff University, said schools that took part in the survey could assess how the actions they put in place may have led to changes in student wellbeing.
“For example, we know of schools that have used their data to make changes in terms of vending machines at school and what types of food and drink are available,” he said.
Emily van der Venter from Public Health Wales said: “We’ve seen a very significant increase in the proportion of young people reporting using screens before bed. We know sleep is really important for our mental health and well-being. -be .”
She added: “Again, we know that physical health and mental health are very closely linked, so we definitely need to do things to improve the physical activity levels of young people and that will also improve health and well-being. -to be people.”
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