Healthy settings for young people in Canada – Cannabis
Health Risk Behaviours in Context
School-related variables are significantly associated with using cannabis in the past 30 days. An association between academic achievement and using cannabis in the past 30 days is apparent for both genders (Figure 4.47). Over two-fifths of students whose marks are less than 50% report using cannabis in the past 30 days, compared to fewer than a tenth of students whose marks are 85% or more.
While only 11% of boys and 9% of girls with a high score on the attitude towards school scale report using cannabis in the past 30 days, significantly more students (26% of boys and 28% of girls) with a low score on the scale used cannabis (Figure 4.48).
Similar to daily smoking and to getting drunk, students whose friends demonstrate a high level of pro-social attitudes are less likely to report using cannabis in the past 30 days (9% of boys and 6% of girls), compared to 27% of boys and 28% of girls whose friends demonstrate a low level of pro-social attitudes (Figure 4.50).
Family affluence is not significantly associated with student use of cannabis in the past 30 days, with only slight variations across the three affluence scores (Figure 4.51).
Examining Figure 4.52, it is clear that one-fifth of students who live with both parents report having had sexual intercourse, compared to one-third of those who do not live with both parents.
Also, 27% of boys and 29% of girls with a low score on the parent trust and communication scale report having sexual intercourse, compared to a fifth of boys and girls with a middle or high score on the scale (Figure 4.53).
Again, the school context is strongly associated with adolescent risk behaviours. The association between academic achievement and having had sexual intercourse is significant for both boys and girls (Figure 4.54). Fifty-six percent of boys and 42% of girls whose marks are less than 50% report having had sexual intercourse, compared to a fifth of students whose marks are between 70 and 84%, and only 11% of students whose marks are 85% or higher.
Twice as many boys and girls with a low score on the attitude towards school scale report having had sexual intercourse as those with a high score on the scale (Figure 4.55).
The influence of good communication with friends on alcohol and cannabis use and on sexual risk-taking is significant, although its influence on daily smoking is not.
Similar to its influence on binge drinking and using cannabis, better communication within one’s group of friends is significantly associated with having had sexual intercourse. A third of students with a high score on the communication with friends scale report having had sexual intercourse, compared to fewer than a fifth of students with a low score on the scale (Figure 4.56).
The association between having had sexual intercourse and pro-social attitudes of friends is also clear (Figure 4.57). Students with a low score on the pro-social attitudes of friends scale are more likely to have had sexual intercourse (27% of boys and 31% of girls), compared to 17% of boys and 14% of girls with a high score on the same scale.
Although higher family affluence is not significantly associated with daily smoking in boys, getting drunk at least twice (in both genders), and cannabis use in the past 30 days (in both genders), it is associated with having ever had sexual intercourse (Figure 4.58). Over a quarter of boys and over a third of girls with a low score on the family affluence scale have had sexual intercourse, compared to a fifth of those with a high score on the scale.
Daily smoking among both boys and girls has declined significantly, especially in Grade 10. This substantial decrease in smoking in the 2002 and 2006 surveys reflects the prevalent social disapproval and changes in attitude towards smoking. These have been precipitated by an increase in anti-smoking advertising campaigns targeting different age groups regarding the health risks of smoking, considerable increases in the price of cigarettes, limited availability of public spaces where smoking is permitted, and also the adverse publicity suffered by the tobacco industry.
Although still relatively high, consumption of beer, wine, liquor, and spirits has declined. Consumption of coolers might be replacing more traditional alcoholic drinks, although fewer than 10% of students report drinking coolers once a week or more. The proportion of students getting “really drunk” twice or more has declined slightly from 2002 to 2006 among Grade 10 students, yet almost two-fifths of students report getting “really drunk” twice or more.
The proportion of boys in Grade 10 who report ever trying cannabis has dropped significantly since the 2002 survey. Heavier use of cannabis (3 times or more in the past 30 days) among students in Grades 9 and 10 is quite low, although girls and boys are equally involved.
A substantial number of drugs show a decline in use. Although some of these declines are slight, often confined to one grade or one gender, in most cases they represent a continuation of earlier declines measured by the HBSC surveys. Only ecstasy and medical drugs (used to get stoned) show increases in use in 2006, and only for girls. Of particular concern is that medical drugs, which may include cough suppressants and other cough and cold medications, are available over the counter and young people may not be fully aware of the dangers of using these widely-available medications which they may perceive as harmless. Magic mushrooms were surveyed by the HBSC study for the first time in 2006 and their use is reported by 7% of students in Grade 9 and by 9% of students in Grade 10.
The proportion of sexually active students has not changed since the last HBSC survey in 2002. One fifth of students in Grade 9 and a quarter of students in Grade 10 report having had sexual intercourse. Condoms are the contraceptive method of choice for young people in Grades 9 and 10. With the exception of girls in Grade 10, reports of recent condom use for contraceptive purposes are significantly lower than general reports of recent condom use, implying that students’ condom use is intended to protect them against infection, rather than to prevent pregnancy. The use of birth control pills is the second method of contraceptive choice for students. Withdrawal is still reported as a contraceptive practice by students in both grades, particularly by girls in Grade 10. Over one-third of students in Grade 9 and almost half of students in Grade 10 indicate not using any measure to prevent pregnancy.
Examining the social contexts of the home, peer groups, and socio-economic conditions on risk behaviour is important. The role that schools play in creating or maintaining risk behaviours is not very clear. Schools that are supportive and nurture a sense of belonging among students can lessen their engagement in risk behaviours. On the other hand, if students feel disengaged and alienated at their schools, engagement in risk behaviours with friends, particularly smoking, may become socially functional and symbolic of peer-group belonging.Footnote 2
These findings suggest that youth behaviours, such as daily smoking, binge drinking, using cannabis, and having sex without proper protection, continue to be health risks.
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