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THL: Finnish youth drinking less but weighing more

The good news is that Finnish teenagers are drinking less alcohol, according to a survey by Finnish health authority THL. The bad news: obesity is a growing problem, the agency says.

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File photo. Image: Eeva Kuivas / Yle

The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has released results from its annual school health survey, which suggest that kids in primary schools are healthier than their older counterparts in upper secondary and vocational school.

The survey found that students in the fourth and fifth grades enjoy going to school more, feel less isolated, feel healthier and say they are more satisfied with life than their counterparts in grades eight and nine.

Vocational school kids less tired - and less healthy?

The health survey also found differences in perceptions of well-being among students who attend academic high schools and vocational school pupils.

Vocational school students told the researchers that they enjoy school more and suffer less from exhaustion than their high school counterparts. However, students in high schools apparently live healthier lifestyles than their vocational school counterparts.

Even though high school students said they perceived themselves to be healthy, the researchers said those students also reported health issues such as excessive tiredness. Some 60 percent of female high school students and about 33 percent of their male counterparts said they felt over-tired at least once a week.

60% of 8th and 9th graders don't drink

THL says that Finland's youth are increasingly likely to not drink alcohol at all.

Some 60 percent of teens in the eighth and ninth grades don't drink booze at all, while 35 percent of teens in high school and 26 percent of vocational school students said they abstain from alcohol.

According to THL, the practice of teens drinking alcohol with the aim of intoxication has also continued to decrease.

Despite the good news about the decline in teens' alcohol use and abuse, THL said they found that Finnish youths are increasingly overweight.

About a quarter of vocational school students weigh more than they should, while just 19 percent of their high school counterparts are overweight.

Many face bullying

Discriminatory bullying - motivated by factors such as appearance, gender, race or ethnic background, handicap, family or religion - affects students across the board, according to the researchers. Bullying appears to affect students more during the primary school age.

The researchers said they were concerned that more than 40 percent of foreign-born students, those in foster or state care and those with disabilities reported being bullied.

Overall, some 19 percent of primary school students said they had been bullied at school or during their free time, while 24 percent of older primary school students said they had also been bullied. Eleven percent of high school students and 13 percent of vocational students said they had been bullied.

Sept 16: Edited to clarify throughout, including percentage of some groups who reported bullying.

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