Toronto Sun

Friday, September 17, 1999

Stress hobbling teens

Report card on national health

The Toronto Sun

CHARLOTTETOWN --  Young Canadians appear to be bearing the brunt of the stresses of a changing world.

A report card on the health of Canadians released yesterday singles out teenagers and aboriginals as the groups most threatened by unhealthy lifestyles.

The report, sponsored by federal and provincial governments and presented to the annual health ministers conference in Charlottetown, is a mixed bag of good and bad news on the physical state of the population.

The best news is that Canadians are living longer than ever before. Life expectancy has reached a new high: 75.7 years for men and 81.4 years for women.

There are also improvements in infant mortality rates, traffic fatalities are down and most Canadians -- 63% -- say their health is excellent or very good.

But the bad news is that young Canadians are increasingly stressed out and they're manifesting their distress through risky practices like unprotected sex, teen pregnancies, heavy tobacco smoking, dropping out of school and suicide.

"Self-esteem among youth is a very important issue and we think that low self-esteem probably contributes to smoking and teenage pregnancy and dropping out of school," said Dr. Shaun Peck of the British Columbia health department, a contributor to the report.

"Dropping out of school early is a very harmful thing for their future health. If someone drops out early, chances are they won't get such good employment and then they end up less healthy because there's a link between income and health."

The connection between low income and poor health is most evident among Canada's aboriginal population.

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