Youth health turns positive corner

8 years ago

While many of Aroostook County and Maine’s young generations are avoiding the risks of alcohol, tobacco and drug use, some may be setting themselves up for health problems later on in life, according to the state’s latest biennial survey.

More than 57,000 middle and high school students were asked to answer health and wellbeing questions anonymously for the 2015 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, which has tried to gauge the health of students since 2009.

The results show that rates of smoking, tobacco use, alcohol consumption and bullying are generally on the decline, though not in all cases. The proportion of Maine high schoolers who have ever tried alcohol fell from 54 percent to 50.1 percent between 2013 and 2015, but the rate of binge drinking increased from 36.3 percent to 39.9 percent over the two years.

There is “more prevention work to be done, “ said Michelle Plourde Chasse, a substance abuse expert and program manager at Community Voices in Fort Kent. In Aroostook County, she noted, there are some concerning trends suggested by the survey.

Although fewer Aroostook high schoolers are smoking cigarettes on a monthly basis, their rate is still around 5 percent higher than the state average. Alcohol use among Aroostook youth also increased slightly since 2013, and both general consumption and binge drinking remains higher than the state average.

The County’s more than 1,500 high schoolers are also more prone to weight problems. Since 2009, Aroostook County’s high school obesity rate has grown from 13 percent to 17.6 percent, more than the statewide average.