A newly released report highlighting the habits of East Kooteany teens shows fewer of them are using illegal substances or having sex than in the past, but they still do moreso than their peers in other parts of B.C.

The statistics come from the McCreary Centre Society’s 2013 B.C. Adolescent Health Survey, the East Kootenay results of which were released last week.

I’m not surprised that teens in this region are using drugs and alcohol more than teens in other regions. It does surprise me that that rate has gone down. I haven’t noticed a decrease in usage of substances here in Invermere. We still have a long way to go,” said Invermere Summit Youth Centre program co-ordinator Kelsey Pritchard. “These are positive results, but I’m not sure they reflect the reality of this local area (the Upper Columbia Valley). I don’t want people to have a false sense of things getting better, because it’s really important to continue funding and running prevention programs to keep driving these kind of statistics down.”

According to McCreary executive director Annie Smith in a press release on the East Kootenay survey results: “We have seen great local improvements in areas such as substance use that show young people are making some good choices about their health.”

Although local students were more likely than their peers across the province to have tried tobacco, alcohol or marijuana, there were local decreases in the percentages who had done so,” reads the report ,going on to add that eight per cent of East Kootney youth who tried alcohol had driven a car after drinking alcohol — a local decline from 14 per cent in 2008.

However, it was more common for local youth to have driven after using marijuana, which 20 per cent of East Kootenay teenage marijuana users had done (the same rate as in 2008), and 11 per cent of them having done so in the month before taking the survey.

More East Kootenay teens are at least waiting a bit longer to starting drinking alcohol, according to the report, with the rate of those having tried their first drink before the age of 15 falling from 84 per cent in 2008 to 74 per cent in 2013.

The report also found that rate of East Kootenay teenagers who had ever had sex was higher than the rates for teenagers across the rest of B.C., but that there was a decrease in the percentage of local youth who ever had sex (other than oral sex), from 33 per cent in 2003 to 29 per cent in 2013. Also 64 per cent of local youth who reported having sex said they used a condom or other latex barrier the last time they did so.

The results also show us that a lot of (East Kootenay) students are not getting enough sleep, and are struggling with mental health issues. We also see a direct relationship between these two, as the more hours of sleep students got the more likely they were to report positive mental health,” said Smith in the release

In the study 56 per cent of students slept for eight or more hours the night before taking the survey, and six per cent slept four hours or less. Most youth (78 per cent) were online or on their phone after their expected bedtime.

In terms of mental health, 27 per cent of East Kootenay girls and 19 per cent of boys reported a mental health condition (such as depression, ADHD or anxiety disorder). Girls were also more likely than boys to have seriously thought about and attempted suicide, with 11 per cent of boys and 19 per cent of girls having thought about suicide in the past year and five per cent of boys and 10 per cent of girls reporting having attempted suicide in the past year.

On a positive note 69 percent of students reported having an adult in their neighbourhood or community (outside their school or family) who cared about them, higher than the provincial average of 61 per cent.

I think the results also show the importance to students of supportive and caring relationships, and it was great to see higher than usual percentages of youth who had an adult in their community who cared about them,” said Smith in the release.

The McCreary survey has been conducted every five or six years since 1992. The most recent one was conducted between February and June 2013 and involved responses from 30,000 students in Grades 7 through Grade 12 in schools across British Columbia. The East Kootenay results included schools in Southeast Kootenay School District No. 5, Rocky Mountain School District No. 6 and Kootenay Lake School District No. 8.

For the full report, visit www.mcs.bc.ca.