Rates of anger, risky behavior, recreational drinking of alcohol, physical
inactivity, long hours of computer use and negative feelings about their schools
remain high among Israeli youth, according to Dr. Yossi Harel-Fisch, head of the
national research program for the health of youth at Bar-Ilan University’s
School of Education.
Harel-Fisch is head of BIU’s International Research
Program on Adolescent Well- Being & Health. For the last two decades he has
conducted surveys for the World Health Organization’s Israeli data on Health
Behavior among School-Age Children (HBSC).
Harel-Fisch spoke Wednesday at
the Health Ministry’s annual conference on health education and promotion, at
Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, attended by some 600 people in the
Harel-Fisch said that Israeli teens display among the highest
rates of these behaviors in Europe. In the last 20 years, “it has not changed
much,” he said. “The daily atmosphere in schools is not good; almost 23 percent
do not like school at all, with lower rates among girls. The level of negative
feelings is high compared to European countries.”
While Israeli teens
don’t excel in physical exercise, they do stand out in using their computers and
watching TV for hours on end – and his figures did not include use of
In addition, half of all children and teenagers are injured
at least once a year in incidents that require treatment by a nurse or medic.
“It should not be this way; injuries can be prevented,” said the BIU
Smoking of cigarettes and nargilas is slowly but steadily
declining among Israeli youths, and rates are low compared to other Western
Binge drinking, however – at least five alcoholic beverages
one after the other, which can be fatal – had shown a dramatic increase over the
last two decades.
Rates of alcohol drinking among 11 year olds was the
highest in Europe, except for Ukraine.
But Harel-Fisch noted that in the
last two years, thanks to comprehensive public health educational campaigns on
the Internet, and elsewhere, that have been presented in their language, binge
drinking by teens has unprecedentedly dropped by half.
“We must be doing
something right,” he said. “Change takes time... Kids didn’t invent the
alcohol culture; they learned it from adults, who have to be positive models for
His surveys showed that during the intifadas,
Palestinian terror caused serious harm to the psyches and moods of Israeli
teens. Those who had emotional support from at least one parent did much better
than others, Harel-Fisch said. “Parental involvement has a major buffering
effect,” he said.
A Health Page feature on the Health Ministry’s
conference will appear on Sunday, November 18.