Govt must have the adolescent in proper focus

THE finding of a publicly-funded study that 61.5 per cent of the urban adolescent are in moderate-to-extremely-severe levels of stress, resulting in a gradual decline in their productivity as well as deterioration in the physical and mental health, is worrying. The major 55.7 per cent of the adolescents are reported to be in moderate stress, followed by 38.5 per cent in low stress and 5.7 per cent in high stress. The study, ‘perceived stress, eating behaviour, and overweight and obesity among urban adolescents’, that a team composed of the Bangladesh Breastfeeding Foundation, Public Health Institute, International Centre of Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, Jahangirnagar University statistics department and Rajshahi Medical College community medicine department conducted in January–June 2019, also finds that about 28.2 per cent are overweight and obese, 2.7 per cent have a very active lifestyle and 30.5 per cent have a sedentary lifestyle, in which little to no physical activity is done. The proposition is worrying because adolescent obesity is 2.212 times more likely for the group having a sedentary lifestyle, 1.13 times more likely for the group having experienced strain because of school-leisure conflict and 1.634 times more likely for the group tempted by restrained eating behaviour, or attempts to refrain from eating.

The study conducted under the non-communicable disease control programme of the health services department, which surveyed 4,609 adolescents in eight divisional cities, reported the highest level of stress in urban adolescents from future uncertainty and school performance whereas the lowest levels of stress were seen from peer pressure and romantic relationships. The study, which did not consider Covid-induced stress and obesity, says that the rate has increased compared with the situation in the past. The researchers find a significant association of stress of the adolescent with emotional and external eating behaviour, which can be linked to overweight and obesity. The researchers say that all this happening despite widespread awareness of the mental health challenges that adolescents face shows that their needs in the area have remained largely unmet. This further shows that the health system is still primarily focused on maternal and child health and communicable diseases and there is a serious scarcity of credible policy and programmatic development for perceived stress, overweight, obesity and nutritional status of the adolescent. It is, therefore, important to understand the mental and physical status of the adolescent to better tackle their performance and to improve on the mental and physical health of the adult. The study also identifies the secondary and higher secondary education period to be a stressful time for students which calls for counselling and support from parents, teachers and peers.

The government must, therefore, recognise the stress on secondary and higher secondary students and work out and implement strategies to improve the mental and social health of the adolescent. The government must conduct further research and employ multi-pronged strategies at familial, societal and educational levels to effectively attend to the situation of the adolescent, including those who do not go to educational institutions and who live in rural areas, before it comes up as a problem beyond reparations.

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