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Mendon Upton Students Show Relatively Positive Health Trends but Remain Sleep Deprived and Stressed

Students in the Mendon Upton Regional School District are drinking alcohol, smoking, and using drugs less frequently than in the past four years, but are experiencing higher stress and getting less sleep than ever before.

This data comes from the results of a 2016 MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey which was presented at the April 30 School Committee Meeting, showing overall "positive" trends in several health and safety issues concerning today's student including substance abuse, bullying, and mental health. The anonymous survey

of over 100 questions has been given every-other year since 2012 to students at both Miscoe Hill and Nipmuc Regional Schools.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Maruszczak highlighted the findings from the 2016 survey, stating that there is progress being made in some of the more concerning issues facing students.

"It's small, it's incremental, but it's a positive trend," he said.

Marijuana use at both the high school and middle school has decreased from 2014 to 2016, down from 28 percent to 25 percent at the high school and down from 3 to 1 percent at the middle school.

"I am not thrilled that 25 percent of our [high school] students answered they have used marijuana in the past 30 days, but I am glad to see the decrease over the past few years," said Maruszczak.

Cigarette smoking is also down, with only 5 percent of high schoolers and 1 percent of middle schoolers reporting that they smoke cigarettes, but the reverse of that decrease, according to Maruszczak, is an increase

in "vaping" or smoking electronic cigarettes. Reportedly more addictive than traditional nicotine cigarettes, e-cigarettes use is up locally and nationally in the teen population.

In the Mendon Upton Schools, use of e-cigarettes has gone up at the high school to 26 percent from 22 percent since 2014.

"That indicates a quarter of our kids are vaping," said Maruszczak.

Bullying and cyberbullying has also decreased in the Mendon Upton schools overall, a trend that Maruszczak credits with the work that has been done in the district with anti-bullying and pro-social behavior programs.

Although much of the news was positive in the 2016 Health Survey, there were a number of topics that raised red flags with the administration.

"Student stress remains a concern," said Maruszczak.

Thirty-seven percent of the district's high schoolers and 20 percent of middle schoolers think that life is "very stressful," and 15 percent of students at the high school and 11 percent of students at the middle school had seriously considered suicide in their lifetime.

"That figure is alarming," said School Committee Member Diane Duncan.

Also concerning was the number of hours students get per night, with only 29 percent of high school boys and 21 percent of high school girls getting 8 or more hours of sleep per night.

And although the numbers are heading in the right direction, Maruszczak said they will continue to focus on providing health and wellness information and support for their students.

"I think there is still work to be done in this area," he said.


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