British Columbia

Tale of the teens: New report provides insight into adolescent life in B.C.

Survey finds youth in B.C. are binge drinking less but more likely to have sleep and mental health issues.

Survey finds youth in B.C. are binge drinking less but more likely to have sleep and mental health issues

The 2018 McCreary Centre Society B.C. Adolescent Health Survey collected information from 38,000 grade-seven-to-12 B.C. students. (Shutterstock / LightField Studios)

Teens in in B.C. are doing less binge drinking and sexting and attempting suicide less according to a survey by a Vancouver research group.

But the latest McCreary Centre Society report also found that compared to five years ago, B.C. teens were more likely to have mental health and sleep issues and less likely to be engaged in sports and volunteering.

Over 38,000 grade-seven-to-12 students from across the province participated in the 2018 survey, providing a glimpse into the lives of B.C. teens. 

Some of the findings:

  • B.C.'s student population has become more diverse. Over the last decade, the percentage of students born in Canada decreased from 82 per cent to 79 per cent. 
  • Seventy-eight per cent of respondents felt they had a good life, while 73 per cent felt their life was going well.
  • More students appear to be missing out on sleep, with the percentage of those reporting eight hours of sleep or more the night before taking the survey dropping from 53 per cent to 48 percent.

Vaping replacing smoking?

  • Tobacco smoking rates continue to drop with six per cent of students reporting they were daily smokers in 2018 vs. seven per cent in 2013 and 10 per cent in 2008.
  • However, in 2018, 21 per cent of all B.C. students report vaping with nicotine and 19 per cent without nicotine.
Vaping is on the rise in B.C. youth. (CBC)

Mental and physical health

  • The overall rate of students reporting having a mental health condition rose in the last five year. In females, the rate rose to 23 per cent, up from 15 per cent in 2013. In males, it rose from five per cent to eight per cent. The rate was 43 per cent among non-binary youth.

  • Seventeen per cent of students reported they had seriously considered suicide in the last year. However, the percentage who attempted suicide was slightly lower in 2018 than 2013 — five per cent versus six per cent.
  • Only 18 per cent of respondents met the minimum recommended level of daily physical activity.

Drugs and alcohol

  • The rate of youth who tried alcohol, marijuana and other substances remained consistent from 2013. However, rates of binge drinking — defined as four or more drinks in a couple of hours for males and three or more drinks for females — dropped off.
  • Among students who drank on the Saturday before taking the survey, 61 per cent engaged in binge drinking, a decrease from 76 per cent in 2013.
    Watching porn is on the increase. However, sexting is on the decline. (The Associated Press)


    • Twelve per cent of those with a phone used their device to watch pornography the day before taking the survey.
    • The rate of student who had sexted on their most recent school day dropped from 10 per cent in 2013 to five per cent.
    • Students who went offline (ie: by turning off their phone at night) were more likely to sleep longer and wake up feeling refreshed.

    According to the McCreary Centre Society, student participation in the survey was the highest since the data collection began and is representative of over 95 per cent of grade-seven-to-12 mainstream school students in B.C.


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