Fifth of Israeli youths say they go to sleep hungry

First national survey of teenagers finds that nearly a quarter of high school girls think they're 'too fat,' 30% of 7th-12th graders admit to smoking nargilas.

poor kids crying 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
poor kids crying 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Large numbers of Israeli teenagers report that they have "gone to sleep hungry," but this was often due not to poverty, but to diets. A surprising 20 percent of the seventh to twelfth graders surveyed reported "going to sleep hungry" during that week, one of the statistics revealed by the first-ever MABAT (National Health and Nutrition) Survey of teenagers, covering 2003-2004. Until now, MABAT has surveyed adults only. The 160-page study, released Wednesday, was based on 25-page anonymous questionnaires filled out by 6,274 pupils in more than 160 state and state religious schools around the country. The poll included Jews, Arabs, Beduin and Druse youth, but not children in the independent haredi or private schools. Participants' height and weight were also recorded, and the study examined those figures along with the youngsters' body image and eating and dieting habits, health status, and activities. The survey also tested their knowledge and attitudes about nutrition. Among junior high pupils (7th and 8th grades), 16% of boys and 13% of girls in low socioeconomic brackets said they had gone hungry that week, while almost 14% of the boys and 17% of the girls in a high socioeconomic bracket said the same. Among high school pupils, 23.7% of poorer boys and 30% of their female counterparts reported going hungry that week, compared to the 16.5% (boys) and 21.1% (girls) of wealthier pupils who went hungry. Nearly 70% of the teenagers eat their main meal at lunchtime, while 61% of the girls and 73% of the boys said they ate at school every day or almost every day. More boys (5.4%) than girls (3.8%) were underweight. More boys than girls were also overweight (7.4% and 3.9%, respectively.) Nevertheless, nearly a third of the girls said they were on a diet, compared to 14% of the boys. More than one-fifth said their friends viewed them as "too thin." Almost a quarter of the girls view themselves as "too fat," compared with 12% of the boys. Two-thirds of the teenagers said they consulted family members with questions about nutrition, while half listed TV as a source and 47% said they read food labels often or always. Nearly 60% of the girls and 42% of the boys said that tenseness and irritability influenced the amount of food they ate. Nearly 95% of all the pupils polled regarded their health as "good" or "very good." But nearly 14% of the girls and 4% of the boys said they had been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia; 9% of the boys and 7% of the girls had suffered from asthma; and 36% of the girls and 26% of the boys had been diagnosed with vision problems. In addition, nearly 30% of the girls admitted to suffering constipation. Over 35% of all the pupils reported having consumed some type of alcoholic beverage for recreation that month, and 30% of seventh to twelfth graders in the survey reported that they smoke nargilas (hookahs). However, over 60% think that smoking should be prohibited under the age of 18. Two-fifths of the girls and 16% of the boys said they walked for exercise at least once a week, while 45% of boys and 39% of girls said they participated in aerobic activity at least once a week. But only 11% of the girls played ball games at least once a week, compared to 58% of the boys. More than 55% of girls and 44% of boys said they watched TV or listened to music for more than two hours each day.