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High school confidential: What teens really think about themselves

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High school boys fret about being too thin and high school girls worry about being too fat, according to that examined the mental health of Canada's adolescents, as well as their physical activity, cannabis use and experiences with bullying.

More than 26,000 students aged 11 to 15 attending 436 different schools participated in the survey, which involved Health Canada and the World Health Organization as well as research teams from 43 countries.

Some key findings:

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  • More boys than girls view their bodies as too thin. More girls than boys see their bodies as too plump: by Grade 10, 39 per cent of girls felt they were too fat, an increase of 13 per cent from just three grades earlier. “The percentage of girls who believe that their body is too fat represents a far greater percentage than girls who are overweight or obese,” a release from Queen’s University noted.
  • Between 19 and 26 per cent of boys said they were physically active for at least 60 minutes everyday, compared to just 11 to 20 per cent of girls.
  • Girls reported suffering more emotional problems and less satisfaction with life than boys, although life satisfaction slid lower as students of both genders got older.
  • Some 40 per cent of boys and 37 per cent of girls reported using cannabis at least once by age 15. Girls’ mental health appeared to be more vulnerable than boys’ when they binge-drank or used cannabis.
  • Throughout all grades, boys were significantly more likely than girls to say that they felt understood by their parents. In general, younger students felt more understood by their folks than older pupils.

In one positive development, more young people felt their parents got them than in years past, suggesting the teenager-parent relationship may be improving.

"The early years are a critical period during which a person's health and well-being can be strongly influenced," said Canada's chief public health officer David Butler-Jones.

"Investing in research that focuses on key health priorities and lets us hear directly from young people contributes to better informed policies, programs and practice to help young Canadians transition successfully to adulthood."

Parents, do you feel you understand your teenagers and have the resources to buoy their fragile self-esteem?

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