ALCOHOL, drugs and family conflict have been revealed as the biggest issues facing Ballarat’s youth.
A new health and wellbeing survey of more than 1000 adolescents also showed that 65 per cent of Ballarat students aged 12 to 15 years had tried alcohol.
The survey, among students from years 7 to 9, was conducted by Strengthening Generations: Ballarat Communities that Care, and will be shared among schools in the region to help formulate projects to combat problems facing young people.
While those who work with Ballarat’s youth believe the statistics in the survey are no worse than for cities of a similar size, the latest information has not come as a shock to some of Ballarat’s welfare leaders, who believe the city’s binge-drinking culture is only adding to the problem.
Sixty-five per cent of Ballarat students aged 12 to 15 years have tried alcohol, according to a recent survey on teenage health and wellbeing in the region.
Of the 1050 years 7 and 9 students questioned, about 35 per cent of them had drunk alcohol in the 30 days before undertaking the survey for Strengthening Generations – Building Communities that Care, a City of Ballarat initiative.
The survey on adolescent health and wellbeing provides protective and risk factor profiles and health and social issues experienced in Ballarat compared with Victoria and other selected communities. The information in this survey was compared with a similar project conducted in 2003.
The prevalence of alcohol among young teens in Ballarat was higher than the rest of Victoria, which recorded 51 per cent of survey participants admitting they had drunk alcohol, while 28 per cent said they had drunk alcohol in the 30 days before taking the questionnaire.
Compared with the rest of Victoria, Ballarat recorded a higher prevalence among its youth in the areas of smoking (20.5, 18 per cent), taking illicit drugs (1.5, 1 per cent), binge drinking (15, 10.5 per cent), suspension from school (13, 9.5 per cent), carrying a weapon (18, 16 per cent), attacking someone with the intention of harming (8, 7.5 per cent), drunk or high at school (5, 4.5 per cent) and high level of psychological distress (18 and 14 per cent).
When asked about the risk factors among young people, 15 per cent of Ballarat students believed family conflict was the most prevalent (this compares to 14.5 per cent statewide). This figure was closely followed by just over 14 per cent (13 per cent) of those in Ballarat considering a family history of substance abuse as the most prevalent. Also of considerable importance was the perceived availability of drugs (9.5 per cent and 9 per cent), school academic failure (9.5 per cent and 8 per cent) and a perceived risk of drug use (7.5 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively).