Teenagers have less sex and take fewer drugs than is widely believed, new myth-busting research shows.
However, they do face a range of threats, of which poverty, violence and alcohol are the most serious.
''Our research shows these urban myths are just plain wrong, but there are serious issues affecting our young people that we need to address,'' Dr Simon Denny of Auckland University said.
More than 100 health and youth-care professionals will gather at Wellington's Te Papa today to review the Youth Health and Wellbeing Survey, conducted by the university in 2000 and 2007.
Both studies surveyed 10,000 pupils aged 13 to 18 in randomly selected secondary schools.
Data from the 2007 survey showed most youths enjoyed good mental health, Denny said. It dispelled myths that most adolescents were sexually active and that there was widespread drug use.
Overall, the survey showed an improvement in pupils' emotional wellbeing. In 2007, 92 per cent of students reported being OK or very happy with their lives, compared with 86 per cent in 2001.
''It shows that most young people are doing fine. However, it's the other 10 per cent that we worry about,'' Denny said.
The number of pupils who had used marijuana decreased from 39 per cent in 2001 to 27 per cent in 2007. Less than one per cent reported using P.
About a third reported having sexual intercourse - unchanged from 2001.
Nearly half the males and a third of females had been physically assaulted in the past 12 months.
Many youths witnessed violence, in terms of yelling and swearing, in their homes. A third of students reported binge-drinking at least once in the four weeks before the survey.
Substantial numbers were not accessing healthcare, especially those with emotional and behavioural health concerns.
More ''one-stop shop'' school-based health services were needed, Denny said.
''At the moment, if there's a mental health problem they go somewhere; if it's a sexual problem, they go somewhere else.''
- The Dominion Post
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