1 in 5 TGN adolescents consume anxiolytics

19% of adolescents in the city consume anxiolytics with or without a prescription. The figure is especially significant in girls, among whom consumption reaches 23%. That is 10 percentage points more than just five years ago.

These are some of the data revealed by the survey of adolescent living conditions in Tarragona carried out during the 2020-2021 academic year commissioned by the Addiction Prevention Service of the Ministry of Public Health of the Tarragona City Council.

The URV, for its part, has been in charge of analyzing the data and comparing it with the surveys that had been carried out previously, in the 2015-2016 and 2018-2019 academic years. One of the results is that the use of anxiolytics is just the tip of the iceberg in an evident reality: the pandemic has deepened the emotional discomfort of adolescents. In the last survey (which was applied to 1,419 students in the fourth year of ESO and the first year of high school), when adolescents were asked if they had suffered from nervousness in the last week, 68.7% of the girls and 37% of the boys guys said yes; 67% of them and 34% of them felt sad, 62% of them and 38% of them had no energy, and 57% of them and 34% of them had trouble sleeping, among others.

The data was presented by the director of the Càtedra d'Inclusió Social of the URV, Ángel Belzunegui, coordinator of the research project at the conference 'Parlem de salut mental', organized by the City Council yesterday at the Palau de Congressos for professionals who work with teenagers. The room (in which there were teachers, monitors, psychologists, social workers, political representatives, members of associations...) was almost too small for the 154 registered. Another 25 people followed him online. The assistance was a sign, as the councilor for health of the city council, Cinta Pastó, recognized that it is an issue "for which we are very concerned."

Suicidal thoughts

Among the indicators of emotional distress, adolescents were also asked if they had thought about suicide in the last week. 15.5% of the girls and 10.7% of the boys said yes. Although Belzunegui warned that more research is needed on this result, he explained that the data is not very far from other similar studies carried out in Catalonia.

The data from Tarragona, moreover, have clearly worsened. In the case of girls, the percentage that answered yes in the 2015-2016 academic year was 11.4%, four points less.

The study also related the responses of adolescents with suicidal ideation with other variables such as parental control, self-esteem or the fact of having suffered sexual abuse. It was found, for example, that children whose parents exercised less parental control (understood as being aware of where the children are, their friends or interests) were 2.6 times more likely to have suicidal ideation. Those who had emotional distress multiplied the possibility of ideation in 5 times. Having suffered sexual abuse increased the possibility by 2.7 and having low self-esteem, by another 2.7.

Young people with emotional distress are more likely to use drugs

Other variables are currently being studied to see how other aspects that young people were also asked about, such as their relationship with family, friends or with school, influence emotional distress.

The main objective of the study was to assess the consumption of drugs and other substances. In this sense, the general headline is that alcohol consumption has been reduced in general. However, it is clear that young people with emotional distress consume more substances. In fact, suffering discomfort is one of the risk factors for the consumption of cigarettes, alcohol and cannabis.

In contrast, among the 'protective' factors against consumption is the involvement of parents or having a good self-esteem, while among the risk factors is having a best friend who consumes.

Of course, we must not lose sight, Belzunegui explained, that the survey was carried out at a time still marked by the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

In fact, during the day the study carried out by the Tarragona Municipal Institute of Social Services to measure the impact of the pandemic on the city's population was also presented.

Jessica Cantos, author of the study, which was carried out by interviewing the same people in two phases of the pandemic, found that although the elderly were the most vulnerable, the young were also, objectively, very affected: they were the ones who lost their jobs the most ( 37%) or their leisure activities (13%).

Young people, like the population as a whole, saw how their degree of satisfaction with life changed, and if before the pandemic they scored it with 8.2 out of 10, at the end of it they placed it at 5.8.

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