Algonquin student health survey reveals higher risky behavior by females

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By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer

Algonquin Regional High School

Northborough/Southborough – Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) Assistant Principal Andrew McGowan shared the findings of the 2018 MetroWest Health Foundation health survey with the Regional School Committee on Nov. 18. Although the results were received months ago and the school has prioritized addressing concerns, the pandemic put the presentation of the findings on hold. Overall, female students are engaging in higher risk activities, like vaping and alcohol use, and are under more stress than male students. 

The optional survey captures emerging data on adolescent behaviors, including substance abuse, mental health, and physical activities in 25 communities every two years in November. At ARHS, 1,337 students (92.4 percent) participated in the 2018 survey.

McGowan said the survey breaks down the data so the District can focus on certain areas that are determined to be priorities to raise awareness and be addressed.

The use of electronic vapor products increased with 31 percent of students reporting use within the 30 days prior to the survey – a 9 percent increase in females compared to 1 percent increase in males. Alcohol use was reported by 33 percent – an increase of 36 percent in females and 29 percent in males. 

Stress levels of female students were also much higher than that of male students – 51 percent of females agreed their life was very stressful versus 27 percent of males. It was noted that senior students reported the highest levels of stress, which is correlated to the timing of completing college applications. 

“Given the substance use data, nearly 70 percent or more of our students are making positive choices when it comes to substance use,” McGowan said. “I don’t want those students to go unnoticed with this data because that is a significant population of our school.”

Another positive point noted was many students have a parent or another adult at home or at school to talk with about important things and personal problems. 

ARHS has partnered with local resources and staff continues to make connections with students. Educating students on the impact of substance use is incorporated in health and science classes.

“Most students are receiving that freshmen year so they can make informed decisions as they go through their four years here at the high school,” said McGowan.

The big question that still has no concrete answer is why female students are taking part in more risky behaviors. 

A modified bell schedule and an updated homework policy during school vacation time have been instituted to lessen stress. 

Principal Sean Bevan said one silver lining of the pandemic is students have probably had less access to addictive devices while quarantined with their adult parents. 

The current plan is for the 2020 survey to be administered in the spring of 2021.