Study: Israeli youth more negative than other teens

New study shows Israeli youth display more negative behavior, spend more time on computers than their European counterparts.

Teenagers drinking and smoking Hookah 521 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Teenagers drinking and smoking Hookah 521
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
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 field.
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 smartphones.
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 researcher.
Smoking of cigarettes and nargilas is slowly but steadily declining among Israeli youths, and rates are low compared to other Western countries.
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 their children.”
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.