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Future under threat: Ukrainian school-aged children neglect their health

© UNICEF/Ukraine/2007/R.Few

Kyiv, 23 September 2011 – The results of a study launched today by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) show, that the majority of school-aged children neglect their health. They consume alcohol, take drugs and have unprotected sex, which increases risks of HIV transmission and exacerbates HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ukraine.

The survey, conducted among school-aged children in all regions of Ukraine, shows that within last four years the number of children consuming alcohol has increased. The most probable age at which children start consuming alcohol is 13-15 years (33 per cent). Every other six-grader and more than 90 per cent of children aged 15-17 drank alcohol. 15 per cent of those surveyed have tried alcohol at the age of 10-11.

Weekly consumption of alcohol has decreased compared to data from 2006, but every tenth six-grader, every fifth eight-grader, every third high-school student and every second student at vocational college and university consume alcohol at least once per week. The most popular drinks are beer (21 per cent of respondents drink it every week, 27 per cent of boys and 14 per cent of girls) and industrially produced low-alcoholic drinks (14 per cent stated weekly consumption). 42 per cent of all respondents reported that they have been “really drunk”: this figure varies from 16 per cent among six-graders to 70 per cent among students.   

Drug use of marijuana or hash among adolescents aged 15-17 remains constant through the last four years (16 per cent, 24 per cent among boys, and 9 per cent among girls). 15 per cent of boys and 5 per cent of girls studying in the high school have taken drugs at least once or twice. Almost 30 per cent of boys and 13 per cent of girls among students of vocational colleges and universities have also taken drugs. 

The number of smokers among young people has decreased compared to 2006 but it’s still significant: 48 per cent have tried smoking (55 per cent of boys and 41 per cent of girls), while 11 per cent smoke daily. Smoking is the most spread among students of vocational colleges: every other boy and every fourth girl smoke daily. The mean age at which girls start smoking has decreased from 14 to 13. General first wave of smoking is at the age of 11 or earlier: 11 per cent of those surveyed have smoked their first cigarette at this age.

“It is clear from this survey that there is an urgent need for building an effective system of promoting healthy life style among young people, cross-sectoral cooperation and allocation of resources for securing health of Ukrainian school-aged children”, said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine.

“Surveys, conducted among school-aged children show that media play an important role in promoting healthy life style among young people. Youth trusts and follows the life style created by television, magazines and Internet. Media should realize the full extent of their responsibility for promoting healthy life style among young people.”

Due to the continuing spread of HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ukraine, the survey also included an assessment of school-aged children’s knowledge on this matter. The results show that a quarter of school-aged children answered “I don’t know” to a question regarding the modes of HIV transmission (one-third according to the data of 2006). 17 per cent have correct knowledge (15 per cent in 2006) and it means that the level of knowledge about HIV/AIDS and the modes of its transmission has improved among school-aged children but it is still significantly lower than a target of 95 per cent of well-informed young people.

Media play the main role in spreading information about HIV/AIDS (78 per cent of respondents mentioned television, 43 per cent – newspapers and magazines), followed by medical workers (67 per cent), teachers (66 per cent), parents (52 per cent) and Internet (50 per cent). 42 per cent of young people aged 15-17 had a sexual experience (55 per cent among boys and 31 per cent among girls). Every tenth reported initiation of sexual life before the age of 15. Every sixth hasn’t used a condom during the last sexual intercourse. The main sources of information about sex are television (50 per cent), peers (46 per cent) and Internet (37 per cent). 

Girls evaluate their health condition to be worse compared to boys. Among all age groups girls graded their health condition as “satisfactory” or “bad” twice as often as boys did. Every second student of vocational college and 58 per cent of university students answered that way.

Healthy behavior among adolescents is influenced by many factors, such as gender, relations with parents, influence of friends, and environment at the educational institution.
The Survey provides useful information for all those concerned with the health of the young generation in Ukraine including decision makers, teachers, parents, medical workers, youth non-governmental organizations and the mass media.

***
The Report “Health and Behavioral Trends among School-Aged Children in Ukraine” analyses patterns of health and behavior among 11-17 year olds with respect to family and school environment, health, nutrition, physical activity, smoking, alcohol and drug use, sexual behavior, insults and violence, the level of knowledge regarding HIV prevention and modes of its transmission, access to medical services and attitude to vaccination.

A sociological survey was conducted in 616 educational institutions (10 343 respondents) situated in 435 localities. The survey supported by UNICEF was conducted by Ukrainian Institute of Social Research named after O. Yaremenko in the framework of the WHO international project “Health Behaviour in School-aged Children” conducted in 41 countries of Europe and North America. The survey included children of 6, 8, 10-11 grades in secondary schools, first-, second- and third-year students at vocational colleges and educational institutions of I-II levels of accreditation (on the basis of 9 years of school education), first-year students of higher educational institutions of I-II and III-IV levels of accreditation (on the basis of 11 years of school education) which corresponds to the age of 11, 13, 15 and 17.   

Project implementation in Ukraine was supported by the following partner organizations: Ministry of Health of Ukraine, Ministry of Family, Youth and Sport, Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, UNICEF office in Ukraine, WHO Country office in Ukraine.

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About UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is a world leader on protection of child rights and best interests of a child. UNICEF is working on the ground in 150 countries to protect and support children from early childhood through adolescence. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. UNICEF opened its office in Ukraine in 1997. For more information:  www.unicef.org.ua


For further information, please contact: Yulia Yurova, Communication Officer, UNICEF Ukraine
 +38-044-254-2450, yyurova@unicef.org

 

 
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