Data also show decreasing trends in alcohol and substance use
Salt Lake City—Data from the 2023 Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) survey shows that while Utah youth face many challenges, building supportive and protective environments at home, school, and in communities are proven ways to prevent many harmful outcomes.
“The SHARP survey is the most comprehensive source of information on the challenges and opportunities our youth face—because the information comes from youth themselves,” said Gov. Spencer J. Cox. “Good data helps us identify risks and develop policies and interventions that help all Utah families and youth feel supported, safe, and able to thrive. We appreciate having parents and school districts actively involved in this survey.”
Data from the SHARP survey has been used to:
- Educate parents about the harms of social media on youth.
- Expand access to mental health services and resources.
- Create the Parents Empowered campaign which encourages parents to talk to their children about the dangers of underage drinking.
- Create the Know Your Script campaign which empowers Utahns to make smart decisions and ask the right questions regarding prescription drug use.
- Develop the SafeUT mobile app and Live On suicide prevention campaign.
- Create a program that pairs kids struggling with school with the Foster Grandparents Program in a local community to help build connections and resilience.
- Pass legislation that restricts the places where flavored vaping products that appeal to children can be sold.
The SHARP survey has been conducted every other year for the last 20 years. The survey is voluntary and both parents and students must give consent to participate. Nearly 52,000 students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 participated in the 2023 survey. Findings show:
Health habits (screen time, sleep, family meals)
- There was a strong relationship between screen time and lack of sleep, thoughts of suicide, and substance use.
- Only 38.4% of youth got 8 or more hours of sleep on an average school night.
- More youth are spending time on their electronic devices than ever before. Nearly 80% (79.8%) of youth spend 2 or more hours per school day playing Xbox, PlayStation, texting, or time on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. (not counting school work).
- Having regular family meals can help prevent suicidal thoughts and substance use. In a typical week, 56.5% of youth eat at least one meal with their family 5 or more times. This is a slight drop from 60.9% in 2021.
Mental health and suicide
- 42.7% of youth who felt sad, hopeless, or suicidal did not talk to anyone about it, even though the majority of youth felt it was OK to get professional help if needed.
- 17.6% of youth seriously considered attempting suicide. It’s important to note that youth have the lowest rates of suicide among all ages. Youth are resilient and can overcome mental health struggles with the right support, treatment, and resources.
- Healthy relationships and connections in the school, home, and community are important protective factors and supports for youth. Using a combined score for four different social isolation questions, about 21.6% of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 felt lonely and isolated often. This is a significant increase from the 2019 survey, but a slight improvement from the 2021 survey.
“The intersection of sleep, mental health, and screen time is a critical issue parents need to be aware of,” said Carol Ruddell with the DHHS Office of Substance Use and Mental Health. ”When kids aren’t getting the sleep their bodies and brains need, they are at a greater risk of not only mental health problems, but academic struggles too. Increased screen time can lead to social isolation which can also make mental health problems worse.”
Substance use (alcohol, vaping, cigarettes, marijuana, drugs)
- Alcohol use continues to decline, with only 3.4% of students reporting they’d used alcohol in the last 30 days.
- While youth are still experimenting with alcohol, more older students are choosing to regularly use marijuana.
- Utah youth are far less likely to misuse prescription drugs compared to adults. Only 1.5% of students said they had taken a prescription drug without a doctor telling them to take it.
- 7.4% of students in grades 8, 10, and 12 used vape products that contained either nicotine or marijuana or both. About 45% of youth who vape use both nicotine and marijuana in their vapes. Of those who don’t vape both substances, about two-thirds vape nicotine and one-third vape marijuana only.
“Vaping continues to be a concern. Evidence both nationally and in Utah suggests students are beginning to vape THC/marijuana in addition to nicotine. Both substances are harmful for the developing adolescent brain and can lead to lifelong addiction issues. The SHARP survey will continue to be a valuable tool for understanding this emerging threat to the health and well-being of Utah youth,” said Braden Ainsworthr with the DHHS Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.
Safety and bullying
- Feeling connected to and involved in school is an important protective factor for youth. The majority of students feel there are chances to get involved with school activities, talk with a teacher one-on-one, and be part of class discussions or activities.
- 84.9% of students feel safe at school. However, 41.6% of students worry about gun violence or an active shooter at school.
- 26.6% of youth said they were somewhat or very worried about getting bullied and 27.2% said they were threatened or harassed via the internet, e-mail, or cell phone.
“We know parents make the best decisions for their children if they have the information they need,” said Heidi Dutson with the DHHS Office of Substance Use and Mental Health. “Parents need to know what types of things are happening in their child’s school and in their community. The SHARP survey helps parents know what to talk about, so they can help their child navigate adolescence. The knowledge we’ve gained from the SHARP survey is invaluable— because it tells us where to look for problems—and solutions.”
SHARP data can be explored by downloading the statewide report or region-specific reports at https://sumh.utah.gov/data-reports/sharp-survey. In the coming weeks, the 2023 data will also be available to query on the Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health or IBIS-PH website (under the “Utah Prevention Needs Assessment” or “Youth Risk Behavior Survey” data query tab).